Juul warned over claims e-cigarette safer than smoking

Daniel Fowler
September 10, 2019

Federal law bans sales to those under 18.

A selection of Juul brand vaping supplies on display in the window of a vaping store in NY.

In a sternly worded warning letter, the FDA flagged various claims made by Juul representatives, including that its products are "much safer than cigarettes". Now no vaping product has been federally reviewed to be less harmful than traditional tobacco products, and that won't happen for a while.

The letter touted Juul's ability "to heat nicotine liquid and deliver smokers the satisfaction that they want without the combustion and the harm associated with it".

The FDA warning also cited a letter from Juul's CEO that appeared on the company's website and in an email sent to a parent who complained that the company had sold products to her child.

"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", said Acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless in a statement.

The agency's warning letter highlights an incident recounted by two NY high school students during a congressional hearing in July.

Juul has said that they are looking at the letter and will fully cooperate with the FDA.

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Juul said it discontinued its school programs last September.

US Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin pointed out in a press conference on Monday how Sharpless' predecessor, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, called vaping among youth an "epidemic".

FDA warning letters are not legally binding, but regulators can take companies to court if they don't comply with their requests.

Juul Labs Inc. was warned by USA health officials that it may have violated the law by making claims its e-cigarette devices are safe. E-cigarette makers have until May to submit their products to the FDA for health reviews.

Most experts agree the aerosol from e-cigarettes is less harmful than cigarette smoke because it doesn't contain most of the cancer-causing byproducts of burning tobacco.

A 2017 report from the US Surgeon General found a 900 percent increase in e-cigarette use among young people between 2011 and 2015. Juul has 15 business days to respond with a plan for fixing the problems.

"[Juul] has engaged in labeling, advertising, and/or other activities directed to consumers, in which JUUL explicitly and/or implicitly has represented that JUUL products are free of a substance", the letter reads.

Juul has already come under scrutiny for its marketing efforts, including its use of social media influencers to promote its vaping devices, with the Federal Trade Commission launching an investigation last month. And under pressure, it also voluntarily removed its fruit and dessert flavors from retail stores.

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