Did Juul just throw U.S. vapor industry under the bus over VTA lawsuit?

The world’s largest retailer of vapor products appears to be breaking from the vapor industry as a whole by announcing a sort of Juul First approach to FDA regulations.  Just last week, the advocacy group Vapor Technology Association (VTA) filed a lawsuit against the federal agency for its newly expedited deadline related to the Pre-Market Tobacco Application (PMTA) process.  Juul Labs now refuses to be any part of it.

In an August 20 press release, Juul says that it remains “fully committed” to the current FDA guidelines  and will not be appealing the former court ruling by Judge Grimm of the Maryland District Court that led to all this drama in the first place.  Clearly, the San Francisco-based conglomerate is ready to move on.  In recent months, the vape company had been zealously working to rebuild it damaged reputation as a prime instigator of a perceived rise in teen vaping.

“While we have appreciated the opportunity to collaborate with the VTA, we will not renew our membership when it expires later this month as we are not aligned on too many critical policy issues. For example, we support clean Tobacco 21 legislation and an outright ban on certain flavors.” 
“JUUL Labs will continue to focus on combating youth usage of vapor products including JUUL while preserving the historic opportunity to switch adult smokers off of combustible cigarettes.”

Juul seems confident that acquiring PMTA approval for its many products will be no big deal, in spite of the fact that former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb suggests otherwise.  In an ominous tweet from June 2019, Gottlieb seems to specifically blame Juul Labs for creating the teen vaping crisis and for placing the fate of the entire vapor industry “at grave risk.”

While Gottlieb and the FDA have been blasting Juul Labs for over two years for its alleged complicity in the teen vaping debacle of allegedly epidemic proportions, the majority of the vapor industry has been largely defending Juul with a “one for all, and all for one” attitude.  Now that the proverbial chickens are coming home to roost, Juul apparently wants to separate itself from the VTA, - and by extension- the many VTA supporters consisting of thousands of smaller vapor businesses.  Juul management is likely theorizing that its participation in the VTA lawsuit might sully its reputation as one of the most hated companies in America even further.

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Juul CEO and perhaps FDA brown-noser Kevin Burns even went so far as to write an Op-Ed in The Washington Post in late March 2019 lauding the FDA for its efforts to eradicate teen vaping.  In hindsight, the article might appear as a quid-pro-quo attempt to placate the FDA publicly in exchange for a smoother pathway to PMTA approval in the coming months ahead.

 “We support the FDA’s draft guidance restricting the sale of certain flavored products, including Juul pods, at retail outlets and online. There is no place for kid-appealing flavors in the marketplace. That is why we would also support an outright ban on such flavors, including those that mimic candies or childrens’ foods. We also support the FDA’s swift enforcement against any manufacturer that packages or markets its vapor products in a way intended to promote use by minors. “  

The PMTA process will be time-consuming, highly complex, and uber-expensive.  With an estimate per-application cost of $300,000 at minimum, Juul theoretically has the deep pockets and the scientific documentation already in-hand to soar through the approval process with ease.  The smaller Mom and Pop vape shops which make up the lion’s share of the American vapor industry simply cannot compete.  But Juul simply doesn’t care – apparently. 

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(Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

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