Things just keep getting worse for JUUL Labs, the manufacturer of e-cigarette devices and vaping liquids popular among teens and young adults.
In a Warning Letter published on Monday, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) slammed the San Francisco-based company for illegally marketing its vaping products as a healthier alternative to traditional tobacco products.
According to the letter, JUUL violated federal law because it never received FDA approval to sell e-cigarettes and liquids as a healthier option.
“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,” Dr. Ned Sharpless, the acting FDA commissioner, said in a statement dated September 9th. “JUUL has ignored the law and, very concerningly, has made some of these statements in school to our nation’s youth.”
JUUL’s trendy vaping devices and sweet-flavored e-liquids account for 70% of the e-cigarette market. The devices resemble a common USB drive, and are easy to conceal from parents and teachers. Critics assert that this design, as well as JUUL Labs’ use of social media platforms and influencers, are part of a deliberate effort to target minors.
Because JUUL’s nicotine content is among the highest in the e-cigarette market, their popularity with youth has raised concern that the products could be especially harmful for still-developing brains. The FDA is also worried the JUUL and other e-cigarettes could act as gateway drugs and will eventually reverse years of declining smoking rates.
The agency is currently working working to curb youth vaping, and last year raided JUUL Labs’ San Francisco headquarters as part of an investigation into its marketing practices. The company’s tactics are also being scrutinized by the House Oversight and Reform Committee
Last month, the FDA warned that at least 127 people had suffered seizures possibly related to e-cigarettes since 2010. In some cases, the seizures occurred after victims inhaled just a few puffs, while others experienced a seizure days after vaping. Many of the reports involved minors, and some involved people with previous history of seizures.
While the FDA hasn’t officially tied the seizures to a particular e-cigarette brand, some of the reports specifically mentioned JUUL devices.
A growing number of e-cigarette lawsuits also blame JUUL vaping products for causing nicotine addiction, seizures, and other health problems.