Vapor Companies Respond To FDA Warning Letters
Vapor Companies Respond To FDA Warning Letters
Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent out warning letters to a handful of vapor retailers and online companies in an attempt to curb underage use of products. In their responses, vapor companies have by-and-large agreed with the agency’s critiques and promised that more will be done to help prevent a younger generation from being able to access e-liquids and vapor products.
The FDA’s letters targeted 13 companies with allegedly misleading packaging on flavored e-liquid that could be mistaken for kid-appealing foodstuffs, including e-liquid that looks like children’s juice boxes, candies and cookies. In this article, we’ll look at the public response from those companies, which interestingly run the gamut between tacit agreement with the government’s position, defensive criticism, and full-throated endorsement.
Like we’ve discussed before at Breazy, fear about young people picking up vapor may be somewhat blown out of proportion by the American media, but actual use by teenagers has been universally frowned upon by the vapor community. Most vapers are older ex-smokers, many of whom are also parents themselves. Like the FDA, these older vapers don’t want their kids to start using nicotine in any form.
The vapor company at the center of the underage vaping controversy for months now, Juul’s CEO Kevin Burns issued a full page statement asserting their commitment to keeping vapor out of the hands of young people and committed $30 million to reaching these goals.
“At JUUL our mission is simple: eliminate cigarette smoking throughout the world one smoker at a time. 38 million Americans and one billion people around the world still smoke. Smoking remains the world’s number one source of preventable death,” Burns writes, before addressing the topic of youth prevention, which he considers a major challenge for the industry.
“Let me be clear: we do not want teens or any other non-smokers to ever use our product. I’m not only a JUUL employee, but more importantly I am a parent of teenagers. I never want my 18-year-old-son or 15-year-old daughter to try JUUL. The product was designed with adult smokers in mind and their need to break the grip of cigarette dependency,” he continued.
North Carolina owners of the brand Blu responded to the FDA with a statement reaffirming their belief that all vapor products are intended solely for adult smokers. They've also committed to supporting legislation that prohibited sales to minors and pointed out that, since 2009, sales of vapor products to young people has been on the decline.
“Fontem Ventures believes that e-vapour products like myblu™ are for adult smokers. As such, we fully support and advocate for legislation prohibiting sales of vaping products to minors, and also respect the recent FDA enforcement action against retailers selling e-vapour products to minors detailed in today’s FDA statement.”
They also specifically addressed the FDA’s concerns about marketing to young people by pointedly avoiding “any association with candy, toys, cartoons.”
American sister company to British Big Tobacco company Philip Morris and owners of the vapor brand MarkTen sent out a tweet the day after the FDA sent out their letters. The brief statement broadly addressed the issue of underaged vapers, saying that they’re taking steps to limit reach to “unintended audiences.”
“Our company’s products are meant for adults, and society expects us to market them responsibly. We understand and agree. Our goal is to build relationships between our brands and their adult consumers while taking steps designed to limit reach to unintended audiences.
Consumer Choice Center
One of the most straightforward responses from vapor companies came from Consumer Choice Center, whose senior fellow, Jeff Stier, applauded the FDA's efforts. He also said that responsible regulation is possible while still offering adult consumers an alternative to cigarettes that significantly reduces the harm from smoking.
"We applaud FDA for cracking down on online and physical retailers running afoul of the law and selling vaping and nicotine-delivery products to kids under 18," Stier said. "The presence of life-saving products like Juul and other e-cigarettes are a boon to public health. But anti-e-cigarette activists want to throw the baby out with bathwater."
Unlike other vapor companies discussed here, California-based Spark Vapor, owner of the brands Cig2o & Vapage, took issue with the letters sent out by the FDA. The company argued that while the agency “sounded the alarm” on underaged vapor use, that they based their complaints on old data gathered from 2011-2015.
According to CSP Daily News, Spark argued that the FDA’s comments “mask differentiation between experimentation vs. constant use … [and] present statistical percentages without data on the rotation of teens into and out of the vape category within the larger total.”
While this last response may come off as unnecessarily combative (even if it does ring true), the range of reaction from vapor companies to the FDA's crackdown showcases the different reactions and discourse in the vapor industry. Going forward, we hope for common-sense regulations that ensures safety for underaged kids and not endangering growth for small business vapor shops and businesses. showcases an important element of the current vapor industry. While Juul has been the most public company to be targeted by the media and the FDA, all vapor companies would be affected by future laws sanctioned by the FDA, if it comes to that.