FDA orders Juul to pull its vaping products from US market

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Federal health officials on Thursday ordered Juul to pull its electronic cigarettes from the United States market. The company is largely blamed for creating another generation of smokers.

The decision is part of an effort by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to bring scientific scrutiny to the multibillion-dollar vaping industry after years of regulatory delays, according to reporting by The Associated Press.

And it applies to “all of their products currently marketed in the United States,” the FDA said.

The FDA has already banned the sale of fruit-flavored e-cigarettes after critics claimed the products targeted teens. Regulators have since been reviewing thousands of applications for vaping products after tightening their oversight of the electronic cigarette market.

To avoid FDA oversight, companies like Juul have been making synthetic nicotine in the lab, not derived from tobacco due to tobacco product regulations. But the national spending bill enacted in March 2022 made clear the FDA can regulate tobacco products containing nicotine from any source.

Juul submitted its application to the FDA nearly two years ago. To stay on the market, companies must show that their e-cigarettes benefit public health. In practice, that means proving that adult smokers who use them are likely to quit or reduce their smoking, while teens are unlikely to get hooked on them, according to reporting by the AP.

The FDA noted that some of the biggest sellers like Juul may have played a “disproportionate” role in the rise in teen vaping. The agency said Thursday that Juul’s application didn’t have enough evidence to show that marketing its products “would be appropriate for the protection of the public health.”

As news of the FDA’s decision emerges, it will likely be welcomed by physicians.

For instance, the American Medical Association called for a total ban on all e-cigarette and vaping products not approved by the FDA back in 2019. The association cited the recent lung illness outbreak linked to more than 2,000 illnesses and over 40 deaths across the country and a spike in youth e-cigarette use as its reason for supporting a ban.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest data, as of Feb. 18, 2020, a total of 2,807 hospitalized e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury cases or deaths had been reported across the country. This includes three deaths in Michigan.

Michigan physician Mark Hamed thinks a pause to review the toxicology data is a step in the right direction. Hamed was appointed by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer to the State Board of Medicine in Dec. 2021.

He referenced a vaping-related lung injury in a 16-year-old Michigan boy. The boy required a double lung transplant at Henry Ford Health System in October 2019. 

The American Lung Association called Thursday’s decision “long overdue and most welcome,” and cited Juul for stoking youth vaping.

According to the FDA, nearly 10.7 million young people from 12-17 years old have used e-cigarettes or are open to trying them.