FDA accuses Juul, Altria of backtracking on promises to curtail teen vaping

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb accused Juul and Marlboro cigarette-maker Altria this week of retreating from an earlier promise to help curtail the “epidemic” of teenage vaping.

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In a letter addressed to Juul CEO Kevin Burns, Gottlieb requested a joint meeting with executives of the two companies. (In December, Altria bought a 35 percent stake in Juul for $12.8 billion).

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“Your newly announced plans with JUUL contradict the commitments you made to the FDA,” Gottlieb wrote. “When we meet, Altria should be prepared to explain how this acquisition affects the full range of representations you made to the FDA and the public regarding your plans to stop marketing e-cigarettes and to address the crisis of youth use of e-cigarettes.”

The FDA chief reminded the two companies of the “independent responsibility” they have to address the “epidemic” of youth vaping.

Victoria Davis, a Juul spokesperson, however, said the company remains “as committed as ever” to stopping underage vaping.

“We are moving full steam ahead on implementing our action plan to limit youth usage and this is unchanged since we announced our plan in November 2018,” Davis said. “We look forward to a constructive dialogue with FDA as we keep our commitments to combat youth usage."

Last November, health officials in the U.S. took a nearly unprecedented step toward curbing use of e-cigarettes among young people, restricting sales of kid-friendly flavors in convenience stores and gas station in hopes of fighting what they describe as an “epidemic” of youth vaping.

The proposed measures were intended to reduce smoking among kids, who tend to prefer menthol cigarettes and flavored vaping products, according to government data. A study released recently found that e-cigarette use among high school students has risen 77 percent since 2017, while cigarette smoking continues to decline.

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Shortly before the federal restrictions, Juul imposed some of its own, halting store sales of some flavors, including mango, fruit, creme and cucumber pods, to deter use by kids. It also said it would only sell via retailers that scan IDs.

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