- A leading government regulator could make selling e-cigarettes online illegal.
- On Tuesday, Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the agency is considering a ban on online sales of e-cigarettes.
- The move could have an outsize effect on brands like Juul, which has a large online customer base.
- Juul has faced a growing health backlash despite its surging popularity, largely over claims of marketing to young people.
Selling e-cigarettes online could soon become illegal.
At a breakfast meeting with journalists on Tuesday, Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the agency is considering a ban on online sales of e-cigs. The move would include barring popular e-cig startup Juul, recently valued at $US15 billion, from selling its products over the internet.
The company has refuted those claims.
“We’re in possession of data that shows a disturbingly sharp rise in the number of teens using e-cigarettes in just the last year,” Gottlieb said in a statement last week.
Preliminary versions of that data, while not yet public, suggest the number of high school students who’ve used e-cigs sometime in the past 30 days climbed by 75%, CNBC reported on Tuesday. Other public data suggests a similar story: Between 2011 and 2017, e-cig use skyrocketed from 1.5% to 11.7% among high school students and from 0.6% to 3.3% among middle school students, according to a recent report from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Over the past several years e-cigarettes were the most commonly used tobacco product by youth,” Gottlieb said on Twitter in a discussion about the data this week.
A growing public health backlash against Juul
Despite Juul’s financial success, the startup faces a growing backlash from researchers and public health advocates who are concerned that the company’s products are creating a new generation of nicotine addicts.
Those researchers cite several peer-reviewed studies suggesting that teens who vape are seven times more likely to smoke regular cigarettes than young people who never use e-cigs.
Ana Rule, a professor of environmental health and engineering at Johns Hopkins University, told Business Insider that device-makers fail to address “the increased risk to this huge market they are creating among teenagers and young adults that never have smoked, and would have never even considered smoking” had they not vaped.
Nicholas Chadi, a clinical pediatrics fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital, spoke about the Juul at the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s annual conference in April.
“After only a few months of using nicotine, [these teens] describe cravings, sometimes intense ones. Sometimes they also lose their hopes of being able to quit,” Chadi said.
Regulatory agencies are making moves to keep these products out of teens’ hands.
The FDA recently cracked down on sales of the Juul to minors and ordered five nicotine vaping brands – Juul, Vuse, MarkTen, Blu E-cigs and Logic – to submit plans showing they have strategies to prevent minors from using their products.
Meanwhile, several states and countries are launching their own initiatives to prevent youth from using the Juul. The Massachusetts Attorney General is investigating whether Juul violated state consumer-protection laws by failing to keep minors from buying its products, and the city of San Francisco recently banned flavored tobacco products like the Juul. More recently, Israel became the first country to ban Juul devices entirely.
In a statement issued last month, Israel’s Health Ministry said the devices pose “a grave risk to public health.”
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