The Brief: JUUL Labs, announced that they will stop selling flavored nicotine pods in retail stores and that they are shutting down their promotional social media accounts.

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In a press release uploaded on November 13, 2018, JUUL stated: “Our intent was never to have youth use JUUL products. But intent is not enough, the numbers are what matter, and the numbers tell us underage use of e-cigarette products is a problem. We must solve it.” This news came after the FDA raided JUUL’s headquarters last month in search of marketing documents related to potential marketing towards minors.

JUUL will be removing all sweet flavors from retail stores, selling them only on their website, which implements a multi-step age verification process to ensure that buyers are over the age of 21. In order to avoid further potential exposure to youth, JUUL has shut down its Instagram and Facebook pages. They will keep their Twitter and YouTube accounts but will limit their use to “non-promotional communications” such as testimonials from adults who used their products quit smoking cigarettes.

In addition to ceasing promotions on their own social media accounts, JUUL is set to work with social media platforms to limit user-generated posts that may make the JUUL appeal to underage users, such as this:

The company will also increase their “secret shopper” program from 500 to 2,000 visits per month.

JUUL and other nicotine vape manufacturers have been under harsh scrutiny due to the popularity of their products among teenagers. Although JUUL officially brands itself as a tool for adults looking for a path to quit smoking, teen vaping is on the rise – both of nicotine and marijuana. Studies show that since teenagers’ brains are still developing, they can become addicted to nicotine more quickly than adults do. Additionally, vaping can lead to cigarette smoking among teens. A study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine reported that a shocking 11% of high schoolers – nearly 1.7 million teenagers – had vaped within the past month. Preliminary unpublished government data suggests that this number is now over 3 million.

FDA Takes Action

On November 15, Scott Gottlieb, the commissioner of the FDA, released a statement, announcing the agency’s plans to crack down on teen consumption of nicotine. The FDA will ban the sale of flavored nicotine pods, with the exceptions of tobacco, mint, and menthol flavored products. They will also limit the sales of flavored combustible cigarettes and cigars.

Although these bans are less strict than Juul’s self-imposed restrictions, Gottlieb made it clear that if these steps are not effective, more serious measures will be taken. It seems that Juul, which currently owns more than 70% of the e-cigarette market, must play its part in reducing teen vaping in order to stay afloat.

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