Four experts told Insiders that the FDA’s Juul ban could signal a bigger trend for the industry.
The decision could be the result of pressure from the Biden administration to tackle teen smoking.
Earlier this month, WSJ reported the White House wants to reduce nicotine in traditional cigarettes.
The US ban on Juul Labs e-cigarettes could be the first step in a larger crackdown on vaping, according to several industry experts.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced Thursday that Juul Labs can no longer sell its e-cigarettes and must immediately withdraw all of its products from the U.S. market. The health group said the decision is part of its campaign to ensure e-cigarettes “are appropriate for protecting public health”.
In its press release, the FDA said Juul Labs is unable to provide sufficient evidence that their vape pods do not leach potentially dangerous chemicals. Juul Labs Chief Regulatory Officer Joe Murillo said in a statement to Insider that the company believes it has provided “sufficient information and data, based on high-quality research, to address any issues raised by the agency,” and plans to appeal the decision.
However, four experts told Insiders that banning Juul e-cigarettes could signal a bigger impending impact on the industry.
“I think this is just the beginning,” said John Bansahf, an attorney and rights activist who teaches at George Washington University Law School. “It seems like Juul was singled out first, in large part because of their marketing to kids.”
The vape brand gained popularity in 2017 after a major social media campaign. The brand became known for its fruity flavors and came under FDA scrutiny over concerns that its marketing campaign was targeting minors. In response, Juul Labs stopped selling fruit-flavored e-cigarettes and scaled back its advertising campaign in 2019.
“This FDA ban is bringing e-cigarette manufacturers to the attention,” Alan Holcolmb, an attorney who focuses on product liability at Turnbull Holcomb, told Insider. “These manufacturers no longer have the unrestricted ability to manufacture harmful products and sell them to masses of young people without significant government oversight. This is a huge win for public health and consumer advocates.”
Last year, an FDA study estimated that over 2 million US middle and high school students used e-cigarettes, but the Juul brand has lost much of the popularity it enjoyed during its heyday. The company’s market share fell from 75% in 2018 to around 42% last year. Last year, a national poll found that more than half of high schoolers who vaped prefer Puff Bar.
When asked by Insider about possible FDA action against other e-cigarette brands, the FDA said it is prioritizing application reviews from “manufacturers with the largest market share at this time because decisions on those applications are likely to have the greatest public health impact.” “
“As a result, the FDA allocated significant resources to review applications from the five companies whose brands represented over 95% of the e-cigarette market at the time: Fontem (blu), JUUL, Logic, NJOY, and RJ Reynolds (Vuse). ‘ the FDA told Insider. The FDA has issued decisions on e-cigarette products from Fontem (blue), Logic, NJOY and RJ Reynolds (Vuse) earlier this year, approving some and rejecting others.
Kenneth Warner, dean emeritus of public health at the University of Michigan, called the reason for the ban “essentially political.”
“There was so much opposition to Juul — from parent groups, organizations like the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (the most influential tobacco NGO), and lawmakers in state legislatures and in Congress — that the FDA simply could not have approved the sale of Juul.” he told Insiders. “The reaction would have been violent, possibly even threatening the agency’s funding.”
Bansahf, who founded an anti-smoking group called Action on Smoking and Health, said the decision was likely the result of pressure from the Biden administration for a broader agenda against the tobacco industry. Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal reported that the White House plans to drastically cut nicotine levels in conventional cigarettes.
“This rejection of Juul could signal their willingness to remove the nicotine from cigarettes, which will take the addictive sting out of smoking,” Robert Proctor, a professor of the history of science at Stanford University, told Insider.
However, Eric Lindblom, former director of tobacco control at Georgetown University’s O’Neill Institute, said he considered the ban too “product-specific” to point to future bans on other e-cigarette brands, especially given the dozens of e-cigarette products out there that the FDA has approved as part of its Premarket Tobacco Product Application (PMTA) process.
Juul Labs submitted its PMTA, which was originally accepted nearly two years ago. Every tobacco company must submit an application to receive approval for continued commercial sale — a process that allows the FDA to take many companies off the market, Warner said.
According to experts, the future of the e-cigarette market ultimately depends on brands being able to demonstrate that their business has more advantages when it comes to helping adults quit smoking, rather than enticing young adults to start vaping.
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