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JUUL Raided …err… ‘Surprise Visited’ by FDA Investigators

JUUL Raided …err… ‘Surprise Visited’ by FDA Investigators

JUUL Raided …err… ‘Surprise Visited’ by FDA Investigators

News broke on Tuesday (October 2) that four days earlier investigators from the US Food and Drug Administration had converged on JUUL Labs' San Francisco headquarters, carting off more than 1000 pages of documents related to an ongoing investigation into whether the dominant cigalike manufacturer intentionally marketed its products to underage users.

Many media outlets are classifying what the FDA called an "unannounced on-site visit" as a raid resulting in "document seizures." But in a press release JUUL issued in response, it used the friendlier term "meeting" to describe the FDA’s visit (which makes it sound like it was planned, but we’ve never heard of a surprise meeting, have you?)  

"The meetings last week with FDA gave us the opportunity to provide information about our business from our marketing practices to our industry-leading online age-verification protocols to our youth prevention efforts. It was a constructive and transparent dialogue," JUUL Labs CEO Kevin Burns wrote on Tuesday.

JUUL, which is based in San Francisco, says it's now provided more than 50,000 pages of documentation to the FDA as part of its ongoing inquiries since April. And JUUL’s latest statement doubles down on its commitment to ending underage access to vapor products with a pledge to unveil a broader youth prevention initiative within the FDA's 60-day deadline to do so.

In somewhat related news, Reuters notes that stock prices for JUUL's Big Tobacco competitors in the cigalike category all received a boost following the FDA's Tuesday announcement. As we noted the last time the FDA took a swipe at JUUL and tobacco stocks soared, JUUL's main competition for convenience store vapor dollars comes from tobacco-backed products including Vuse (British American Tobacco), MarkTen (Altria/Philip Morris), blu (Imperial Tobacco) and Logic (Japan Tobacco).

It's unclear at the moment what, if anything, will come from the latest document smash-and-grab, but JUUL's decision to remain silent on the matter until after the FDA went public is curious, particularly given the level of scrutiny the company’s receiving from the media of late.

No timeline for the completion of an investigation has been identified by the FDA, but it could be that they are specifically looking for corroboration that JUUL knew shortly after launching its product in 2015 that minors were using it, something JUUL has consistently denied. The company waited nearly a year to shift its advertising, first from a campaign featuring 20-something models to using only models over age 35 and later to yet another featuring only testimonials from former smokers who'd used JUUL products to quit.