WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) move to step up efforts to keep electronic cigarettes and vapor products out of the hands of underage consumers has the support of the industry.
"JUUL Labs agrees with the FDA that illegal sales of our products to minors are unacceptable. 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," the company said in a statement to CSNews Online.
"We are working with the FDA, lawmakers, parents and community leaders to combat underage use, and we will continue working with all interested parties to keep our product away from youth," it added.
As CSNews Onlinepreviously reported, the FDA announced several new actions and efforts around the marketing of vapor products as part of its new Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan. In making the announcement, Commissioner Scott Gottlieb called out several products specifically, including JUUL and Fontem Ventures' myblu.
The agency's actions include:
- Citing 40 retailers for violations related to youth sales of JUUL e-cigarettes;
- Announcing a new blitz of retailers targeting youth sale violations;
- Taking new action to examine youth appeal of JUUL; and
- Taking steps to foreclose online sales of JUUL to minors.
In a statement, Fontem Ventures said it believes that e-vapor products like myblu are for adult smokers, adding it "fully supports and advocates for legislation prohibiting sales of vaping products to minors, and also respect the recent FDA enforcement action against retailers selling e-vapor products to minors," the agency detailed in its April 24 announcement.
"Since 2009 blu has successfully marketed e-vapor products to adult smokers in the U.S. and around the world in a responsible manner. In that time, youth smoking rates and use of combustible tobacco products have declined in the U.S., in line with trends in adult use," the company said. "We are cognizant of the recent spate of media reports suggesting a rise in teen use of e-vapor products, referred to in the FDA statement, and appreciate public concern."
According to Fontem Ventures, the company implements a number of youth protection initiatives, including online age-verification mechanisms on blu.com, clear product labelling that states "not for sale to minors," and branding that avoids any association with candy, toys, cartoons or other products popular with youth.
"In all blu sales and marketing activities, we are very clear that vaping products are an adult-only category," it said, adding that it will continue to work with regulators in the United States and elsewhere to implement best practices in all our commercial activities.
In an online statement, Altria Group Inc., the leading tobacco company in the U.S., said, "Our company's products are meant for adults and society expects us to market them responsibly. We understand and agree. Our goal is to build relationships between our brands and their adult consumers while taking steps designed to limit reach to unintended audiences."
Jeff Stier, senior fellow at the Consumer Choice Center, applauded the FDA's efforts, and said that responsible regulation is possible while still offering adult consumers an alternative to cigarettes that significantly reduces the harm from smoking.
"We applaud FDA for cracking down on online and physical retailers running afoul of the law and selling vaping and nicotine-delivery products to kids under 18," Stier said. "The presence of life-saving products like Juul and other e-cigarettes are a boon to public health. But anti-e-cigarette activists want to throw the baby out with bathwater."
According to Stier, the center sees the agency's announcement as a potentially positive step if it signals the FDA's ability to enforce existing laws preventing sales to minors while also making adult smokers aware vapor products, like JUUL, are "significantly less harmful" than traditional cigarettes.
"We believe that the FDA's actions are a weak response to a concerted political effort to overstate the dangers of e-cigarettes. If youth use is as widespread as has been reported, the FDA should take responsibility and do a better job of cracking down on the bad-actors, not responsible manufacturers of lower-risk products like JUUL, which does not market to youth," he added.