The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has fired off a stern warning letter to the vaping company Juul. The company is being warned that it is violating the law by marketing its products as a safer alternative to cigarettes. NPR’s Richard Harris reports.
Juul is allowed to sell its products to adults, but the FDA said that the company is not allowed to claim that they are safer than cigarettes. The company says in its marketing that its products improve the lives of people by being an alternative to cigarettes. And earlier this year, a congressional committee heard testimony from teenagers that a company representative at a school assembly said the product was, quote, “totally safe.” Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, an Illinois Democrat, questioned teenager Philip Fuhrman, who recounted his experience with the Juul rep.
The Ilinois Democrat asked the teenager if about whether the government had approved Juul.
PHILIP FUHRMAN: mentioned that the company representative said that the FDA was about to come out and say that Juul was 99% safer than cigarettes. and he added that it would happen very soon and that it was going to be approved by the FDA very soon.
the company representative said that the FDA was about to come out and say that Juul was 99% safer than cigarettes. And he said would happen very soon and that it was in FDA approval while the talk was going on.
The FDA warning letter cited that exchange as one example of illegal marketing of these nicotine delivery products. The FDA’s letter goes on to explain that if a company wants to claim that vaping is a safer alternative to cigarettes, it needs to get the product approved under a specific section of the law. Juul has not done that.
In order to do so, the company would need to provide scientific evidence to substantiate its claims.
Health experts note that these vaping products contain far less of the toxic chemicals such as tar that are found in cigarettes, but they do contain addictive nicotine, and the long-term consequences of vaping are unknown. Juul is the nation’s biggest producer of vaping products and has previously come under fire for enticing a whole new generation of teenagers to become hooked on nicotine. The company has 15 days to respond to the FDA warning letter and says it will fully cooperate with the agency.
Tobacco litigation was one of the most contentious and expensive litigation brought under Proposition 65
in the late 1990s. For the defense bar, it was the equivalent of the full employment act. For health advocates and for NGOs it was NGOs it all-out war.
Juul’s comments certainly suggest that the vaping company’s tactics are not very different than those of the big tobacco companies of days gone by.