Juul stops sale of flavored e-cigarettes in stores, halts social media presence

After facing pressure from federal regulators to help curb the increased frequency of vaping among minors, Juul announced on Tuesday that it will temporarily stop selling its flavored pods for e-cigarettes in retail stores.

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In a blog post, CEO Kevin Burns outlined the company’s plans to curtail underage use of e-cigarettes, which includes halting retail orders for its mango, fruit, creme and cucumber pods to the 90,000 stores that carry them. The product will still be available online, but Juul is banning sales to anyone under 21 -- even in states where the legal age is lower.

Once retail stores comply with Juul’s new criteria -- its age restriction and verification system -- the company will resume sales, according to the news release. Clerks will be required to electronically scan IDs and, if the person is age-verified, the sale quantity will be limited to prevent bulk purchases.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plans to restrict sales of flavored e-cigarette products in stores across the country this week. The agency also wants to impose stricter guidelines for online sales, including an age-verification process.

Juul also announced that it was going dark on social media, shutting down its Facebook and Instagram accounts while continuing to monitor third-party accounts for “inappropriate material.” The company will keep its Twitter and YouTube accounts, but limit access to people over the age of 21.

“There is no question that this user-generated social media content is linked to the appeal of vaping to underage users,” Burns wrote. “This is why we have worked directly with social media platforms to remove tens of thousands of inappropriate posts.”

In September, the FDA announced that it had issued more than 1,300 warning letters to retailers who were illegally selling Juuls, one of the most popular e-cigarette brands.

”We see clear signs that youth use of electronic cigarettes has reached an epidemic proportion, and we must adjust certain aspects of our comprehensive strategy to stem this clear and present danger,” FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement last month.

Preliminary government data revealed that e-cigarette sales jumped 77 percent among high school students and 50 percent among middle school students in 2018, which means that 3.5 million minors have been vaping throughout 2018.