Vaping giant will continue to sell mint, menthol, and tobacco flavors.
Flavored vapor products have faced growing scrutiny over the last several weeks as anti-vaping activists claim their appeal attracts teens to vaping and eventually smoking. Despite increasing evidence pointing to the contrary, flavored vapor products continue to be targeted by lawmakers and the media with hysterical misinformation and overzealous regulation.
Juul Labs recently announced it would be suspending all sales of their flavored pods excluding mint, menthol, and tobacco. The company had previously voluntarily pulled flavored vapor products from retailers last November but continued to offer them for sale through its age-restricted website.
Juul has stated the decision is apart of its growing effort to proactively work with regulators and public health experts to help provide a reduced-harm smoking cessation device to adult smokers. Anti-vaping activists don’t believe Juul has gone far enough, noting that mint and menthol flavorings are among their most popular and have been used to entice youth smokers for decades.
All of this comes amid a looming federal ban proposed by the Trump Administration on the sale of any flavored vapor products except tobacco, including the controversial mint and menthol. Members of the vaping industry, both large and small, are scrambling to navigate and remain ahead of this new hostile regulatory landscape.
In a press release, Juul Labs announced they were halting sales of all non-tobacco and non-menthol flavors: including fruit, creme, mango, and cucumber. Alongside halting sales of its flavored vapor offerings, the company has also ceased all print, digital, and broadcast advertising in the United States.
The company has stated the move is to help the public regain trust in the vapor industry, as well as to help adult smokers while combating underage use. This comes at the height of regulatory scrutiny and media fervor surrounding vaping, with a looming federal ban on the sale of all vapor products and several states enacting jurisdictional bans of their own.
Critics of the move note that remaining flavors mint and menthol account for roughly 80% of the companies sales and have been used for decades to appeal to potential young smokers. “Juul’s announcement today that it is leaving mint and menthol flavors on the market shows that it hasn’t changed one bit under its new leadership and isn’t serious about preventing youth use,” said Matthew Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
The company has often been at the center of claims of creating a teenage vaping epidemic, with critics blaming its sleek design, flashy marketing, and appealing flavor offerings as enticing to youth. Juul Labs continues to face strenuous scrutiny in lieu of proactively combating underage vaping and complying with the proposed legislation.
As mentioned above, Juul Labs has remained vigilant and proactive in combating teenage vaping, setting new standards for themselves and the industry along the way. One such initiative is the company’s $30 million investment to help combat teenage vaping through independent research as well as teen and parental preventative education.
In response to allegations of marketing to youth through its social media channels, the company addressed these accusations head-on. The company changed its social media approach from posting photos of adult vapers using their product to sharing testimonials from former adult smokers about how Juul allowed them to finally quit smoking.
Flavor bans, such as the ones Juul has preemptively pulled its products in response to, have been shown to have negative public health ramifications rather than benefits. Research from Yale University found that by restricting access to flavors that allowed them to switch to vaping from smoking, nicotine addicts may end up simply taking up smoking again.
Additionally, research shows claims of a teenage vaping epidemic may be dramatically overblown. Research carried out by Action on Smoking and Health found that as little as 0.1% to 0.5% of teens who try vaping end up doing so regularly.
Juul Labs’ decision to stop selling flavored vapor products signals a concerning future for the industry as a federal ban waits on the horizon. While the company’s proactive stance should be commended, it signals a lack of faith in a potential industry shift toward allowing flavors again.
Flavor bans have already been shown to have major negative economic consequences wherever they’ve been implemented. Flavored vapor products make up a majority of sales, as high as 95% for some retailers, and their ban has already forced dozens of small mom-and-pop vape shops to shutter across the country.
Despite its massive size, Juul has agreed to stop actively lobbying lawmakers. In light of this, it is crucial now more than ever for members of the vaping industry to continue pushing back against excessive legislative overreach through their own lobbying efforts and litigation.
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