The nation’s leading manufacturer of e-cigarettes announced last week that it is suspending the sale of most of its flavored pods in convenience stores and is discontinuing social media promotions of its products — welcome news to those who have become increasingly concerned about nicotine addiction among teens.
The move comes from Juul Labs, the San Francisco-based company that controls more than 70 percent of the country’s e-cigarette market. We’ve previously pointed out the questionable ethics of marketing the small, concealable device to teens and are pleased with the step forward to prevent further problems with nicotine addiction.
Some believe Juul’s announcement is meant to undercut the Food and Drug Administration’s plans to unveil a number of moves to keep electronic cigarettes out of the hands of teenagers. Regardless of motive, any step toward ending teen nicotine addiction should be considered a step in the right direction.
More than 3 million middle and high school students have reported using e-cigarettes, according to government data, with about a third of them saying the flavors were a big factor in their choice. But despite claims that the products are harmless, more than 30 percent of teens who use electronic cigarettes switch to traditional tobacco products within six months of trying vaping.
Although the FDA has not issued a complete ban, its threat of sanctions has brought other manufacturers and marketers of e-cigarettes to the table. The tobacco giant Altria says it will discontinue most of its flavored electronic cigarettes and stop selling others altogether. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company says it will suspend its social media marketing campaign and require age verification for use of its website where it sells e-cigarettes. A unit of Imperial Tobacco Group says it will raise the age of consumers who can buy its flavored pods to 21. These may be good efforts, but more significant ones are needed. Not enough is known about the full consequences of e-cigarettes and vaping, especially the effects on young populations.
Even with these actions, detractors of the electronic cigarette industry say the damage has already been done. With such a large percent of the market, Juul can well afford to suspend its social media campaign without much loss. Millions of children are already hooked on nicotine because of their use of e-cigarettes, guaranteeing an ongoing customer base. Luring youths to nicotine addiction is a step backward and away from the years of progress and hard work to prevent rising generations from tobacco and nicotine addiction.3 comments on this story
If the e-cigarette industry is sincere in its mission to market its products as a means of helping adults stop using traditional tobacco products, it should stick to that mission. Some teens will always find a way around restrictions, but more or less courting underage users is inappropriate.
We are grateful for the pressure coming from the FDA, but regulators should not be lulled into a false sense of security by voluntary industry actions. It will take ongoing efforts and careful oversight from parents, schools, public officials and government agencies to ensure dangerous habit-forming activities get snuffed out.