The Food and Drug Administration could be set to bring the hammer down on vape pen maker Juul. The agency is preparing to order it to stop selling e-cigarettes in the US and the decision could come as soon as today, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Along with other e-cigarette makers, Juul was required to submit its products to the FDA for review in 2020. The agency has been looking into the possible benefits of vaping as an alternative to cigarettes, but the popularity of the products among young people has caused concern. The FDA has already cleared products from Juul's rivals, Reynolds American (which is behind the Vuse brand) and NJOY.
The FDA has been scrutinizing Juul for several years. It seized marketing materials from the company for review in 2018 over concerns about underage vaping. In 2019, the FDA criticized the company for telling students its products were "totally safe" after it accused Juul of undermining efforts to clamp down on teen vaping.
The agency limited sales of flavored e-cigarettes in 2018 and banned several variants outright in early 2020 in an attempt to reduce the appeal of vaping among teens. Juul pre-empted that ban (perhaps in an attempt to get in the good graces of regulators and the public) when it stopped sales of mint- and fruit-flavored vape pods in 2019.
Several states have sued Juul, alleging that it targeted minors with marketing. It paid $40 million to settle a North Carolina suit in 2021, and a $22.5 million settlement in Washington state earlier this year. The Federal Trade Commission has also reportedly looked into Juul's marketing tactics.
Juul will have the option of appealing a federal ban on sales of its products, if the FDA does take that step, or challenging it in court. Some observers have suggested that the company may ask for a stay while the agency reviews a version of the vape pen that has age verification tech. Engadget has contacted Juul for comment.
A blanket ban would likely prove devastating for Juul's business. The WSJ notes that the vast majority of the company's revenue comes from the US. Juul became the top e-cigarette brand in the country a few years ago, but sales have dropped and it's now said to be in second place in the US market behind Vuse.
Meanwhile, the FDA is aiming to remove nearly all nicotine from cigarettes to make them less addictive. That could lead to millions of smokers switching to vaping or giving up smoking entirely.