Feds Crack Down On E-Cigarette Sales To Minors

A U.S. government-led sting operation led to 40 warnings to retailers for selling Juul e-cigarettes to kids. The undercover operation was conducted to stop retailers from enabling underage tobacco use. Juul e-cigarettes, made by San Francisco-based Juul Labs Inc., resemble a USB thumb drive, making them popular with minors who want to hide their habit. The vapor typically does not have a smell and quickly dissipates.

Juul Labs started selling its device on the mainstream retail marketplace in 2015. A Juul starter kit costs $49.99 and contains a re-chargeable Juul device, a USB charger, a warranty, and a four-pack of the flavored Juul pods. The kits are available nationwide at convenience stores. According to data from IRI, Juul held a 39 percent share of the electronic-device smoking market by dollars over the 13 weeks though March.

The Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb is focused on expanding the agency’s oversight of electronic cigarettes with a new youth tobacco prevention plan. The announced four steps apply to all e-cigarette products. Gottlieb said in a statement, “It’s imperative that we make sure children and teenagers aren’t getting hooked on more novel nicotine-delivery products.”

Anti-tobacco advocacy groups have lobbied the FDA to tighten marketing standards for Juul and other e-cigarettes. Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said, “By taking one look at a Juul advertisement, it’s abundantly clear they have dusted off Big Tobacco’s old marketing playbook and are obviously trying to market their products to our children and teens.” The FDA has demanded that Juul turn over documents relating to product marketing and research related to youth appeal.

Gottlieb said in his statement, “The troubling reality is that electronic nicotine delivery systems, such as e-cigarettes, have become wildly popular with kids.” The statement continued, “For this reason, the FDA must — and will — move quickly to reverse these disturbing trends, and, in particular, address the surging youth uptake of Juul and other products.”

Juul Labs said in a statement that it “agrees with the FDA that illegal sales of our product to minors are unacceptable.” The statement continued, “We already have in place programs to prevent and, if necessary, identify and act upon these violations at retail and online marketplaces, and we will announce additional measures in the coming days.” Gottlieb said, “We appreciate that Juul Labs has already expressed recognition of this problem and has reached out to the FDA and other stakeholders to discuss these concerns.”

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