Illustration for article titled Juul Reportedly Plans to Pitch the FDA an Age-Locked E-Cigarette
Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)

Things have swiftly turned very, very bad for e-cigarette titan Juul. The company has been targeted by health officials and regulators as being a primary driver behind a surge in kids and teens hooked on tobacco products, and Juul is now in crisis mode as it works to prevent its products from being yanked from the market. According to a new report, one way Juul might be hoping to do so is by pitching federal officials on a locked version of its e-cigarettes that would bar users younger than 21 from using them.

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Citing sources familiar with the matter, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that Juul is preparing to present the Food and Drug Administration with a massive document laying out its commitment to curbing youth use as well as research about its products and marketing-related information. As part of these documents, Juul is reportedly planning to include a proposal for the new age-locked device. The company may submit the new device to the FDA in May, or file it as part of a submission later in 2020, the paper said.

The Journal, citing a Juul official, reported that the company will also seek approval to market its e-cigarettes as a safer alternative to cigarettes—an assertion previously made by the company that landed it in deep shit with the FDA, as Juul did not have the necessary approval to make such a claim. Juul’s presumably regretful Big Tobacco buddy Altria has reportedly been closely involved with Juul’s FDA application to keep its e-cigarettes on the market.

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“We are committing all necessary resources to submit a scientifically rigorous PMTA designed to provide FDA with the science and evidence needed to assess the role our products can play moving smokers away from cigarettes, while combatting underage use,” a Juul spokesperson told Gizmodo in a statement by email. “We respect the PMTA process and look forward to sharing our comprehensive scientific research program.”

At this point, Juul appears to be throwing spaghetti at a wall. And in the UK and Canada, Juul previously introduced the Juul C1, a device that uses an associated app to lock the e-cigarette, find the device if it’s missing, and monitor a user’s pull count. (That device also uses facial recognition technology and other means to unlock the device.) It’s unclear whether Juul would propose a different device to the FDA, but according to the Journal, the one it’s planning to pitch “won’t track nicotine consumption.”

Changes to its marketing and perhaps even its devices comes at an existential time for Juul, which has not only pulled some of its most popular pod flavors from market but also is facing numerous investigations and lawsuits. Last year, Bloomberg reported the company was planning to cut roughly 650 jobs as part of a plan to cut $1 billion in spending. This week, BuzzFeed News reported that the company has scaled back its workforce in Singapore as two executives leading its overseas initiatives announced they were stepping down from their roles.

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A spokesperson confirmed the resignations of Juul’s president of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa and its president of Asia-Pacific South.

“As we continue to reset the vapor category, we are taking a methodical approach to our overseas presence and are working to centralize oversight of our overseas operations,” a Juul spokesperson told Gizmodo. “We thank both Ken Bishop and Grant Winterton for their considerable contributions to getting us where we are today in their respective markets and wish them well in their future endeavors.”

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