FDA Accuses Top Vaping Companies of Not Doing Enough to Stop Youth Vaping
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) believes Juul and Altria are going against the commitments they made to the federal government to prevent minors from smoking e-cigarettes.
FDA Commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, claims the two companies have privately agreed to a financial partnership, rather than doing their part in removing vape pods from stores. He plans to meet with the top executives of both companies at agency headquarters to ensure they commit with their agreement with the FDA.
Last month, Altria—the top manufacturer of traditional cigarettes in the country—agreed to purchase a 35 percent share (approximately $13 billion in value) in Juul, a start-up which has become arguably the most popular e-cigarette among teenagers. But parents, teachers, and public health officials suspect that youth vaping has resulted in an influx of nicotine addiction.
Back in October 2018, Altria representatives met with Dr. Gottlieb, resulting in both parties reaching an agreement where Altria stops selling vape pods until it obtains FDA approval or until the company addresses youth epidemic of nicotine addiction. Altria’s chief executive, Howard A. Willard III, sent a letter to the federal agency, stating pod-based e-cigarettes are mostly to blame for the increase of youth vaping. Juul and three other tobacco companies provided the FDA with detailed plans to comply with the agency’s demands.
However, Altria’s deal to acquire a significant portion of Juul’s stake has expanded the tobacco giant’s reach to vape-based products. The new partnership can result in Juul e-cigarettes being sold in 230,000 stores, as opposed to the 90,000 locations where Juul products are currently available.
The FDA will most likely request Altria to avoid making Juul flavor pods available in their stores. However, Altria said the company is only a minority investor in Juul, meaning they do not make business decisions on behalf of Juul. They plan to continue their dedication toward keeping tobacco products out of the hands of teenagers.
In November 2018, the FDA released guidelines introducing new restrictions in the vaping industry. Sweet-flavored e-cigarettes could only be sold in stores which restrict entrance to individuals under 18 years of age or display products in a separate section for only certain age groups. Not only did Dr. Gottlieb pledge to end the vaping epidemic among teenagers, but also announced to ban menthol in cigarettes and other flavored cigars.
According to FDA reports, e-cigarette use among high school students rose by almost 80 percent and use among middle school students increased by 48 percent in 2018. In total, 3.6 million students vape, with over a quarter doing so 20 times a month.
Based in the Bay Area, Juul is responsible for 70 percent of the country’s e-cigarette business since launching in 2015. In an effort to combat youth vaping and the pressures from lawmakers and parents, the company changed its marketing campaign and suspended sales of their flavored pods.