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Sales of the once-popular Juul e-cigarette have plunged by $500 million, jeopardizing the company’s very existence. Chalk that up to massive awareness campaigns by those who believe the product’s potential health hazards and controversial marketing tactics to young people must be stopped.
What’s on the line is whether the Food and Drug Administration will ban the sales of Juul products. At a September 9, 2021 meeting, the FDA delayed a ruling about whether it should ban sales of Juul products even as it barred the sale of almost 950,000 lesser-known e-cigarette products.
In its attempt to show the FDA that it has changed, Juul has spent millions of dollars in federal lobbying and advertising. The company denied it knowingly sold its products to teenagers and has publicly pledged to do all it can to keep them away from minors.
Even with the overall reduction in sales, the FDA reported that some 3.6 million middle and high school students used e-cigarettes in 2020. In its $40 million settlement with North Carolina, Juul did not admit intentionally targeting youths. Settlements were also reached in North Carolina and Arizona, according to Juul’s website.
Juul believes its product will help convert adult smokers to what it calls a safer option. Recently, a House panel questioned the acting FDA commissioner, Dr. Janet Woodcock, about the agency’s plans for Juul. She said they would base their decision on “sound science.” At issue is whether more smokers will use Juul products as a way to stop using traditional cigarettes and if Juul really can keep the products away from teens.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the FDA recommend that people not use THC-containing e-cigarette, or vaping products, particularly from informal sources like friends and family. It reported that as of February 2020, some 2,807 hospitalized cases had been reported from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and two U.S. territories (Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands). Sixty-eight deaths had been confirmed in 29 states and the District of Columbia.
If Juul survives, the company will probably spend several years trying to settle thousands of lawsuits, according to a story in the New York Times. Some 40 states and the District of Columbia have sued Juul, seeking money to pay for combating the youth vaping crisis. Individuals who suffered lung damage or lost a loved one from using Juul products have filed lawsuits. The company also faces criminal charges that its merger with Altria violated antitrust laws.
Only time will tell whether the FDA or Juul will prevail.
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