Juul Labs, one of the major e-cigarette companies, already has largely cornered the industry market on criticism over its popularity with minors and its candy-flavored nicotine products. Now the company has gotten on the wrong side of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
A now-removed page on Juul’s website said that its product could “heat nicotine liquid and deliver smokers the satisfaction that they want without the combustion and harm associated with it.” The statement specifically violates administration restrictions on unsubstantiated health claims, pretending that nicotine is harmless without being delivered by cigarette. This claim is also a key part of its “Make the Switch” ad campaign, which marketed Juul as a step-down product for nicotine addiction.
Another incident that arose came by witness testimony; students reported that a Juul representative spoke at their community college and claimed that Juul “was much safer than cigarettes” and “totally safe.” The student body of most community colleges is between 18 and 20 years old, which flies in the face of Juul’s claim that the company doesn’t target teenagers with its marketing.
On September 9, the FDA issued Juul a warning letter that both of the above violated federal regulations, as Juul had not gone through the government approval process required to sell its products as a healthier alternative to anything. That kind of marketing is controlled to protect the public from unsubstantiated and deceptive claims.
“Regardless of where products like e-cigarettes fall on the continuum of tobacco product risk, the law is clear that, before marketing tobacco products for reduced risk, companies must demonstrate with scientific evidence that their specific product does in fact pose less risk or is less harmful,” said Dr. Ned Sharpless, the acting FDA commissioner. “Juul has ignored the law and, very concerningly, has made some of these statements in school to our nation’s youth.”
The company hasn’t gone through studying the effects of their product on users, presumably because it knows any claims of the product’s safety are unwarranted. The health effects of e-cigarettes do not have a deep body of study, but health officials have linked more than 400 cases of lung disease to vaping in just 2018 and 2019, including a number of deaths.
Alongside the warning letter, the FDA also issued a demand to the company for documentation of their marketing practices and information on the formulas of several of their products.
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