- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Facing intense pressure from the Trump administration, the nation’s leading e-cigarette maker said Tuesday it will clamp down on teen use by shuttering its social media accounts and yanking flavored products from the 90,000 retail shops where they’re sold.

Juul said it is removing mango, fruit, creme, and cucumber “pods” from shelves but not flavors that mimic those found in combustible cigarettes.

Company CEO Kevin Burns said it was taking action because it is “sensitive” to Food and Drug Commissioner Scott Gottlieb’s argument that certain flavors are causing a rash of young people to take up vaping, potentially creating a new generation of nicotine-addicted Americans.

He said Juul’s true intention is to help adults wean off regular cigarettes.

“We don’t want anyone who doesn’t smoke, or already use nicotine, to use Juul products,” Mr. Burns said. “We certainly don’t want youth using the product. It is bad for public health, and it is bad for our mission.”

Juul said flavored products will be sold exclusively on its website, rather than at convenience stores or vape shops.

It is beefing up age-verification measures to ensure no one younger than 21 can access the products. By the end of the year, customers will need to verify their identify through a code sent to their phones and a photo that matches their uploaded government ID.

The moves appear to be a direct response to the FDA’s looming crackdown on vaping companies whose products are favored by teens.

Dr. Gottlieb applauded Juul’s initiative but said their moves won’t supplant his own agency’s ideas, which could be rolled out this week.

“We’re deeply concerned about the epidemic of youth use of e-cigs. Voluntary action is no substitute for regulatory steps #FDA will soon take,” he tweeted. “But we want to recognize actions by JUUL today and urge all manufacturers to immediately implement steps to start reversing these trends.”

Dr. Gottlieb has recognized e-cigarettes’ advantages for adult smokers who want to quit, but said a rise in usage among young people is an unacceptable tradeoff, so he may have to consider yanking flavored products from the market.

He cited a shocking 77-percent jump in use among high schoolers over the least year.

Juul has been singled out because it holds a large share of the vaping market and its products look like thumb drives, making it harder for parents to identify them as e-cigs.

The company said it may reintroduce flavored e-cigs to retail shops, though only in stores with robust age-verification systems that scan IDs.

For now, it will only sell two flavors — mint and menthol — at retailers, since Dr. Gottlieb’s reported plans do not include those flavors.

Juul is also shutting down its Facebook and Instagram accounts, saying it realizes many young people get their information from social media. It said its Twitter account will be used for “non-promotional communications” and its YouTube channel will only feature adults who’ve transitioned off tobacco.

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