Commentary

Juul Pulls Fruity Flavors From Its Website

Juul Labs yesterday stopped selling all of its non-tobacco, non-menthol-based flavors -- Mango, Creme, Fruit, and Cucumber -- online in the U.S., pending an ongoing Food and Drug Administration review of e-cigarette flavors.

The San Francisco startup last year stopped sales of such flavors … in bricks-and-mortar stores but had until now continued to sell them on its website, which has age controls. Juul’s online sales represent less than 10% of its revenue. In the first half of 2019, Juul had $1.27 billion in global revenue, including more than $100 million outside the U.S., according to people familiar with the matter,” Jennifer Maloney writes  for The Wall Street Journal.

“Juul is the e-cigarette market leader, accounting for 64% of e-cigarette sales in retail stores, and has been blamed for a rise in underage vaping,” Maloney adds.

“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,” says  CEO K.C. Crosthwaite  in the release announcing the news.

After Altria invested   $12.8 billion for a 35% stake in Juul last year, it replaced Juul CEO  Kevin Burns with Crosthwaite, a longtime Altria executive. He, in turn, hired fellow Altria executive Jose Luis Murillo to oversee Juul’s regulatory strategy, CNBC’s Angelica LaVito reminds us.

“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,” Beth Mole points out for Ars Technica.

“Juul gave presentations in schools to kids -- and the FDA is fuming. 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,” Mole continues.

“Juul's move to suspend flavors comes the same day that a small nonprofit group, Center for Environmental Health, announced a legally binding agreement of its lawsuit with the company that will limit Juul's marketing to kids and teens in specific ways,” NPR’s Allison Aubrey writes.

“For instance, Juul cannot advertise at sporting events or concerts that allow people under the age 21. The company may not pay for or permit company employees to appear at schools. And, the company can't use models in their ads that are under the age of 28.

“In a statement to NPR, a Juul spokesperson wrote ‘we agree that no youth should use Juul products and we are committed to combating underage use.’ The statement goes on to say that this ‘settlement affirms voluntarily responsible marketing practices that Juul Labs has had in place,’” Aubrey adds.

Juul’s release yesterday reiterated previous announcements that it is suspending all broadcast, print, and digital product advertising in the U.S., will cease its active support of Proposition C  in San Francisco and will refrain from lobbying the Trump administration on its draft flavor guidance  and will fully support its final policy decision.

“Adding to Juul’s woes, the e-cigarette industry has been under intense scrutiny since a mysterious vaping-related illness, now known as EVALI, spread across the U.S., sickening nearly 1,500 people and killing 33. Those illnesses -- which are not linked to any specific company, product, or ingredient -- have mostly hit people vaping THC, which Juul does not sell. But the outbreak spurred several congressional hearings on the safety of the products and increased pressure on e-cigarette makers to demonstrate their products are safe and do not target children,” Sara Harrison writes for Wired.

“Health officials last week started referring to the lung injuries by the acronym EVALI, which is short for ‘E-cigarettes or Vaping product use Associated Lung Injury,’” Erin Schumaker writes  for ABC News.

“While the cause of vaping injuries hasn't been determined, and no single product has been linked to the lung injuries or deaths, the majority of people affected vaped products containing THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Nicotine has not been eliminated as a possible culprit in the outbreak, because some of those sickened reported using only nicotine devices,” Schumaker adds.

Indeed, “Juul was hit with its first wrongful death lawsuit Tuesday, filed by a Florida woman who is blaming the vape company after her 18-year-old son died in his sleep. Lisa Vail’s complaint alleges Daniel Wakefield became addicted to his Juul at age 15, so much so that he ‘suffered severe mood wings if he did not have access’ to his vape pen,” Lia Eustachewich writes  for the New York Post.

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