Wednesday, 16 October 2019 19:54

Juul halts sales of some flavors—but not the ones teens use most

Leading e-cigarette maker Juul on Thursday announced that it is immediately suspending the sale of some of its flavored products—Mango, Fruit, Creme (crème brulee), and Cucumber.

Notably, mint and menthol flavored products are not included in the pack of extinguished flavors.

The move is ostensibly to ease growing alarm over the spike of vaping among teens—who strongly prefer flavored products.

About 25% of high school seniors reported recent e-cigarette use in a health survey this year, up from 11% in 2017. About 12% of students said this year that they used the products on a daily basis.

Officials have largely blamed that surge on Juul, which dominates the US market. As youth vaping skyrocketed between 2017 and 2018, Juul saw its sales rise 783%. Federal regulators and lawmakers have accused the company of making unsubstantiated claims about the safety of its products and directly marketing them to teens.

In September, the Trump administration announced that it planned to ban all flavored products to address what the Food and Drug Administration has called an “epidemic” of youth vaping.

Shortly after, Juul announced that its CEO was stepping down and that it was ceasing all US advertising and lobbying.

In today’s announcement, Juul’s new CEO K.C. Crosthwaite said, “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.”

Prior to taking the position at Juul, Crosthwaite was the “Chief Growth Officer” at Altria Group Inc., formerly Philip Morris Companies Inc.

A sticking point for Juul’s latest move to “combat underage use” is that the banned flavors are not the ones teens are using most often—the remaining flavors, mint and menthol, are.

According to federal data, of all the high schoolers who used e-cigarettes between 2017 and 2018, nearly 68% reported using flavoring of any kind. But in the same batch of high school vapers, a little over 51% said they used mint and menthol products.

That’s why in September, federal officials made a point to note that they would seek to ban mint and menthol flavors as well as fruity and dessert flavors.

The data “shows that the youth are drawn to flavored e-cigarettes, including mint and menthol,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in an Oval Office meeting at the time.

The plan prompted some e-cigarette companies to look into legal challenges to such a ban, according to The New York Times. But in today’s announcement, Juul said it “will fully support and comply with the final policy when effective.”