FDA could ban Juul products as it weighs products benefits and risks to teens

The FDA could order all Juul e-cigarette products off the U.S. market as early as this week. 

Officials with the federal agency are preparing to deny an application by Juul, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal Wednesday.

When Juul was first introduced in 2017, it became hugely popular, but it has been investigated and sued for marketing to young people.

At the Cigarette Value shop in Pinole, a small case still contains the Juul-brand e-cigarettes, but the store workers say it is much smaller now after Jull was banned from marketing sweet candy-type flavors.

"Two years ago they banned all the flavors, like fruit medley, cucumber, strawberry. They banned all the flavors and took it from the market," said Sabawoon Alekozai at the Cigarette Value.

This store says they always ask for ID's to avoid selling to people under 21-years-old.

The FDA is weighing the claims by Juul that its product helps people stop smoking, against criticism that the company has targeted teens with marketing.

Some parents say they would welcome a ban on Juul devices that have become popular with youth.

"I do know a lot of high school students do, and they do it for both cigarettes and marijuana. And I think it's an easy way to hide it," said Lisa Minniefield, an Albany parent.

"It's something that many of us who have been working to protect our children from tobacco products have been hoping for," said Valerie Yerger, a UCSF Professor of Health Policy and co-founder of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council.

Yerger says Juul has contributed to the problem of vaping among youth who embraced the e-cigarette devices because they don't emit odors and can be easily concealed.
"In terms of it looking like a USB drive. That's very deceptive. In terms of kids wearing apparel such as a sweatshirt with a hood that has drawstrings and if and if you take a look at the drawstrings it's actually a device for vaping. That's deceptive," said Yerger.

Yearger says she and other tobacco-free advocates hope to see menthol included with the rejection of Juul's products and the Biden administration's efforts to reduce nicotine in tobacco products.

"Menthol is an anesthetic," said Yerger, "It makes smoking not only easier, but more acceptable to the smoker."

KTVU reached out to Juul for comment but did not receive a response. The company says adults use the product to stop smoking cigarettes.

"A lot of my customers they were smoking cigarettes, now they're smoking Juul and they said it helped us quit cigarettes," said Alekozai.

Alekozai says the government needs to focus not just on Juul, but also on the online market.

The Vapor Technology Association, which represents more than 1,000 companies issued a statement. 

Executive Director Tony Abboud said: "The reported denial of Juul’s PMTA application is stunning. While the company has certainly been at the epicenter of conflict, the amount of rigorous, peer-reviewed science supporting their products’ ability to help smokers quit, raises serious questions about the FDA’s subjective balancing test and whether public pressure campaigns will steer science policy in the future."

The FDA reportedly is planning to release a decision by the end of the week.