Vape ‘em while you still got ‘em. A new report says that the Food and Drug Administration is planning to cut off Juul from the U.S. market, a move that would likely doom the e-cig manufacturer and leave a huge hole in the alternate-nicotine industry just as federal regulators are planning to nerf traditional cigarettes as well.
The Wall Street Journal reported the FDA could order Juul to stop selling its e-cigs in U.S. markets as early as Wednesday, according to unnamed sources with knowledge of the matter. The hammer-blow decision would likely hemorrhage the already staggering vape company after it stopped selling flavors back in 2019, shortly before the FDA banned fruity e-cigarette flavor pods in early 2020.
It follows two years of review by the FDA over its tobacco and menthol products where the agency has missed deadlines on reviewing applications by these vape companies. Juul has struggled under scrutiny for years, having previously been under congressional review last year after it took notes from old tobacco playbooks and funded pro-vaping studies, among other scandals.
Juul did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.
The news comes after multiple controversies related to whether Juul and other e-cigarette manufacturers were marketing their sweet-flavored pods to young children through advertising. Back in 2019, former President Donald Trump hemmed and hawed over possibly banning the flavored vapes, knowing such an act could cost him at the polls. While his FDA did eventually bring the ax down on flavored e-cig capsules, Trump’s administration stopped short of a full ban.
The Joe Biden administration seems to have no such compunctions. Earlier this year, the FDA said it would force tobacco companies to phase out menthol cigarettes by 2024. Just yesterday, the Washington Post reported that Biden’s team is expected to require companies to cut back the amount of nicotine found in cigarettes.
And without an official FDA report, it remains unclear just what regulators consider a good vape device versus a bad one. Tobacco-flavored vape pens made by the company Vuse gained regulatory approval last year, with the FDA claiming that the benefits of helping smokers quit outweighed the risks of teen usage. The difference between Juul’s products and Vuse’s offerings remains unclear.
Some researchers have critiqued the Biden administration’s plans for dealing with tobacco use. This reported rollback on nicotine in cigarettes could just make more people smoke even more cigarettes, though government-backed researchers said that smokers were more likely to quit or seek alternatives such as e-cigarettes, according to WSJ.
So the government’s own research suggests there’s a need for e-cigarette products to help people quit the habit. Juul has spent too long in the crosshairs thanks to consistent reports the company marketed its nicotine-filled products to people who don’t smoke or really shouldn’t use them. The Federal Trade Commission reported companies like Juul were keen to advertise to kids. Still, the FDA’s own Youth Tobacco Study showed that approved brand Vuse is smoked by 10.5% of young students who use e-cigs compared to Juul’s 6.8%. And what will fill that void if Juul is taken off of shelves?
Another lingering issue is what this will mean for the so-called “black market” vaping industry that continues to sell a vast variety of flavored vape juices. It wasn’t so long ago that there was a lot of hubbub regarding whether aftermarket THC vaping juices were causing respiratory problems in both young and healthy people. The Centers for Disease Control has repeatedly said that any vaping product is bad for your health, though the federal government has struggled to define the distinctions between the vaping devices and the substances people inhale.