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Vaping giant Juul Labs said Thursday (Oct. 18) that it will suspend online sales of its non-tobacco, non-menthol flavored e-cigarettes in the U.S.
The company had already suspended retail-store sales of its mango, creme, fruit and cucumber flavors, which watchdogs say have contributed to the nation’s youth vaping crisis.
The suspension is immediate and will remain in place while the FDA reviews vaping, the company said. The agency is considering a ban on flavored e-cigarettes, which can lead to nicotine addiction.
Juul said it still believes flavored e-cigarettes can play a critical role in “helping adult smokers move away from combustible cigarettes,” which cause cancer.
Thursday’s announcement stems from Juul CEO K.C. Crosthwaite’s review of the company’s operations after taking office about three weeks ago.
“We must reset the vapor category by earning the trust of society and working cooperatively with regulators, policymakers, and stakeholders to combat underage use while providing an alternative to adult smokers,” he said in a statement.
The company also suspended advertising as he took office.
“Given the lack of trust in our industry,” the FDA review of the health consequences of e-cigarettes is the best way “to assess the role these products can play in helping adult smokers move away from combustible cigarettes while also being kept out of the hands of youth,” Juul said Thursday.
Vaping watchdog Robert Jackler, a professor at Stanford University, said the latest move is “a step in the right direction.” But, he added, the November 2018 discontinuation of Juul’s flavored e-cigarette sales at stores led American teens to migrate to Juul’s mint- and menthol-flavored nicotine pods.
“If JUUL leadership is serious about containing the viral youth use of its product, it should be sold only in unsweetened tobacco flavor,” Jackler said in an email.
Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in a statement that Juul’s move “shows that it hasn’t changed one bit under its new leadership and isn’t serious about preventing youth use.”
About 64 percent of high school students who use e-cigarettes now use mint or menthol flavors, according to preliminary data released by the FDA.
“Juul deceptively claims it will only be selling menthol versions in the U.S. and never mentions that it has simply re-categorized the popular mint flavor as menthol,” Myers said.