News from the FDA/CDC

FDA issues warning to JUUL on illegal marketing of e-cigarettes


The Center for Tobacco Products, part of the Food and Drug Administration, has issued a warning letter to JUUL Labs Inc. for illegal marketing of unauthorized modified-risk tobacco products, citing violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

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According to the letter, JUUL has marketed its e-cigarettes and e-liquids as modified-risk tobacco products without receiving FDA authorization to do so. JUUL’s labeling, advertising, and other consumer-oriented activities to this effect could reasonably lead consumers to believe that JUUL products represent a lower risk of tobacco-related disease, compared with other tobacco products; that they contain a reduced level of a substance; and that they are free of a particular substance or substances.

As evidence, the letter cited testimony given at a July 2019 hearing held by the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy of the Committee on Oversight and Reform of the House of Representatives, in which a representative from JUUL, speaking to students at a school presentation, said that JUUL products were “much safer than cigarettes” and that the “FDA would approve it any day,” that JUUL products were “totally safe,” that a student “should mention JUUL to his [nicotine-addicted] friend ... because that’s a safer alternative than smoking cigarettes, and it would be better for the kid to use,” and that the FDA “was about to come out and say it [JUUL] was 99% safer than cigarettes ... and that ... would happen very soon.”

In addition, a “Letter from the CEO” that appeared on the JUUL website and was emailed to a parent in response to her complaint that the company sold JUUL products to her child stated that “[JUUL’s] simple and convenient system incorporates temperature regulation to heat nicotine liquid and deliver smokers the satisfaction that they want without the combustion and the harm associated with it.”

In a related press release, acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless, MD, said that “regardless of where products like e-cigarettes fall on the continuum of tobacco product risk, the law is clear that, before marketing tobacco products for reduced risk, companies must demonstrate with scientific evidence that their specific product does in fact pose less risk or is less harmful. JUUL has ignored the law, and very concerningly, has made some of these statements in school to our nation’s youth.”

The FDA has requested a response from JUUL within 15 working days of the letter’s issue. Failure to comply with the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act could result in the FDA’s initiating further actions such as civil money penalties, seizure, and/or injunction.

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