The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it is planning to meet with the manufacturers of e-cigarette products over what it’s consistently called an “epidemic” of teen vaping. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said Thursday that he is contacting company heads of e-cig makers “to meet to discuss commitments they made last month, and why some are changing course.”
“There’s no reason manufacturers must wait for [FDA] to more forcefully address the epidemic. Yet some already appear to back away from commitments made to FDA and the public,” Gottlieb tweeted. “The vaping community that supports harm reduction for adults should also focus more of their efforts on select manufacturers that are primarily responsible for the youth epidemic if, like [FDA], they seek to preserve these opportunities as a way to transition adult smokers.”
The FDA has taken significant strides in recent months to tackle the issue of teen vaping head-on. In November, in apparent compliance with regulations, Juul announced it would no longer sell many of its flavored e-cig pods in retail stores. It also closed down many of its social media accounts amid ongoing reports that it shares significant responsibility for the spike in teen vaping.
As Reuters noted, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams last week slammed the use of e-cigarettes among teens and the manufacturers responsible, specifically pointing the finger at Juul. During a news conference, Adams said that it is critical that strategies shown to prevent tobacco use among kids be applied to e-cig products, “including USB flash drive-shaped products, such as Juul.”
In response, Juul’s Senior Director of Communications Victoria Davis said in a statement that it was “committed to preventing youth access of JUUL products.”
“We stopped the distribution of certain flavored JUULpods to retail stores as of November 17, 2018, strengthened the age verification of our industry leading site, eliminated our Facebook and Instagram accounts, and are developing new technology to further limit youth access and use,” Davis said. “We are committed to working with the Surgeon General, FDA, state Attorneys General, local municipalities, and community organizations as a transparent and responsible partner in this effort.”
This month, tobacco giant Altria forked over $12.8 billion for a significant minority stake in Juul, bringing Juul’s valuation to an estimated $38 billion. In an announcement about the deal, Juul’s CEO Kevin Burns doubled down on the company’s apparent commitment to keeping kids from using its products, saying that its “intent was never to have youth use JUUL products.” Though that’s somewhat up for debate.