Facing multiple state and local lawsuits, will Juul become the sacrificial lamb of vaping?

Last week, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said that JUUL e-cigs deemed “fashionable” by teens are the real threat to public health and that adult vape shops are largely acting responsibly.  Within days, the mainstream media began reporting that the Trump Administration would be pulling the plug on its initial decision to ban flavor vapes nationwide.  While a ban is always possible in the future, for now the American vaping community could breathe a limited sigh of release.

During this brief window of time, multiple states, counties, and at least one school district have filed lawsuits against Juul Labs specifically.  They argue that the world’s top selling vapor company is guilty of specially targeting children in its advertising and social media marketing campaigns.  In short, it’s Juul’s fault that teens are buying e-cigs– not the teenagers illegally using their products nor their unwitting parents.

It’s been clear all along: Feds hate Juul, not vaping

The first court case was filed in early 2019 by the state of North Carolina.  California announced a similar lawsuit this past Monday, and now New York is adding itself into the legislative mix according to a Tuesday report by The Hill.  In a response published in Time Magazine, Juul spokesperson Austin Finan said that the company has yet to review the latest complaint.

“We remain focused on resetting the vapor category in the U.S. and earning the trust of society by working cooperatively with attorneys general, regulators, public health officials, and other stakeholders to combat underage use and convert adult smokers from combustible cigarettes.”

During his appearance last week on CNBC’s Squawk Box, ex-FDA Chief Gottlieb stated that he would not be opposed to a nationwide ban on flavored-vapor cartridges like Juul, Vuse, and NJOY because those are the unique products that teenagers prefer.   He further adds that “adult vape stores, by and large, serve the adult population,” which seems to imply that these vendors should be exempt from any federal bans.

“Well, it looks like what the kids are abusing are the cartridge-based products like JUUL and Vuse and NJOY.  They like the disposable, cheap products that are flavored.  They like the form and fashion.  They like the high nicotine content of those products including Juul… 
“But I think at this point, you really need to look at potentially pulling all of those cartridges-based products off the market because I’m not sure that they have enough redeeming public health benefit and value given all the youth use.”

Gottlieb argues that teens are drawn to Juul vapes because of their unique design that can be cheap, disposable, and easily mistaken for conventional USB drives by schoolteachers and parents.  More traditional vaping products like KangerTech mods and bottled, refillable e-liquids are typically purchased by the adult vaping community through age-restrictive websites and vape stores.  Adult vape shops, Gottlieb continues, are not the problem.  Juul is. 

Juul vape lawsuits: Slippery slope or sacrificial lamb

There’s strong evidence that the so-called “teen vaping epidemic” originally coined by Gottlieb himself in 2017 coincided with the bold entrance of Juul products into the marketplace.  Non-Juul vaping has been a part of American culture for the past twelve years, but the Feds only became concerned with “vaping” after Juul’s sales began to skyrocket, particularly among teens.

Unfortunately, the American vaping community may soon be facing a critically important decision.  Do they continue to support Juul, fearing that perhaps banning one vapor product over another may cause of slippery slope of future company-specific regulatory actions?  Or do they offer up Juul as a sacrificial lamb in an effort to save the American vaping industry as a whole?  Millions of lives may literally depend on their collective decision. 

Related Article: Ex-FDA Chief Gottlieb: JUUL is the problem, not adult vape shops

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

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