FDA crackdown on sale of “Juul” vaporizers and e-cigarettes to minors

By Cathie L. Fields and Jacqueline D. Hang for EdLaw Connect Blog by AALRR, an ACSA Partner4Purpose


On April 18, 2018, six leading public health and medical organizations insisted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take immediate action to address the rise in teenage usage of Juul electronic cigarettes. The groups cited recent research conducted by the Truth Initiative and published in the journal Tobacco Control, which revealed that 63 percent of current Juul users aged 15-24 did not know the product contains nicotine. Additionally, the research indicated that 25 percent of users may not even realize the product is an e-cigarette or tobacco product.

In referencing the characteristics of the Juul vaporizer (e.g., sleek and easy-to-conceal design; sweet flavors; and nicotine content), the groups alerted the FDA to the rapid increase in teen usage, calling it an “urgent public health problem” that required immediate action.

The groups urged the FDA to take specific actions including, but not limited to: (1) immediately ordering the removal of any Juul flavors that were introduced after August 8, 2016, without first seeking the required FDA authorization for new or changed products; (2) ordering the removal of Juul-like e-cigarette products by other manufacturers that have been introduced without required FDA review; (3) suspending Internet sales of Juul until stronger rules are established to prevent sales to minors and increasing enforcement of the ban on underage sales by brick-and-mortar retailers; (4) reversing the FDA’s 2017 decision that allows e-cigarettes that were already on the market as of August 8, 2016 to stay on the market until at least 2022 without undergoing review by the FDA; and (5) applying to Juul the same FDA rules that prohibit cigarette brand names from being used on products such as apparel due to the impact on kids.

The FDA responded last month by announcing a “large-scale, undercover nationwide blitz to crack down on the sale of e-cigarettes–specifically Juul products–to minors at both brick-and-mortar and online retailers,” as part of its new Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan. The agency has also issued over 50 warning letters to retailers for such violations, stating that its actions should serve as notice that the FDA will not tolerate the sale of any tobacco products to youth. Additionally, the FDA requested data from Juul Labs to understand the product’s design, effects, and marketing efforts toward young users.

While the FDA has taken some action to address this growing problem, school districts are encouraged to implement their own measures to prohibit the possession and use of vaping devices along with traditional tobacco products by way of policy revisions that encompass these devices. Districts are also encouraged to take preventive measures such as increased monitoring on campus, counseling efforts to help students quit, and inviting community health groups to conduct presentations for staff, parents, and students about the potential hazards of vaping and nicotine use.


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