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Can You Still Vape Legally?

By Alex Sirek | Last updated on
Over just a few years, Juul has gone from being the most popular electronic cigarette on the market to being identified as a public health hazard by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Why did the ever-popular vape company experience such a fall from grace? And what does this mean for e-cigarette users across the country?

Juul's Controversial Past

Juul's rocky relationship with the FDA dates back to 2018 when the FDA launched an investigation into the sales of Juul e-cigarettes to underage kids. The FDA wanted to look over Juul's marketing materials and demanded that the vape company create a plan to prevent teenagers from purchasing their products. In 2019, the FDA focused even harder on Juul after the company claimed that e-cigarettes were less harmful than traditional cigarettes in a series of advertisements. The company's comments state that their products are, "99% safer" than cigarettes, “much safer" than cigarettes, "totally safe," and "a safer alternative than smoking cigarettes." In response, the FDA sent a warning letter to the vape company stating that this sentiment is, "particularly concerning because these statements were made directly to children in school." In the same year, Juul was also encouraged to stop promoting and producing its fruit and dessert flavors, which had become incredibly popular with minors. The FDA quickly went on to limit flavors of small vaping devices to menthol and tobacco only. While Juul has been on the FDA's watchlist for at least five years now, the FDA is now attempting to shut the company down completely.

The FDA's Juul Ban

The rift between the federal agency and the e-cigarette producer reached a fever pitch on June 23rd, when the FDA demanded that Juul stop the sale of their e-cigarettes and nicotine cartridges. The FDA also denied Juul's marketing authorization, stating that Juul "failed to provide sufficient toxicology data to demonstrate the products were safe." For years, Juul and many other e-cigarette companies have continually claimed that their products are a less harmful alternative to traditional cigarettes. A notion largely unquestioned by the general public. But now these companies must actually prove it to stay on the market. They also must prove that their products help adult smokers quit or reduce their smoking. At the same time, they must provide evidence that children and teens are unlikely to get addicted to nicotine via their products. Though a recent federal survey showed that fewer teens are vaping, the numbers are still much higher than other tobacco products. In 2021, 13.4% of high school and 4% of middle school students reported current tobacco use. With 39.4% of those students regularly using e-cigarettes, it's plain to see that youth vaping is still a major issue in the United States. In addition to concerns surrounding teenage nicotine addiction, the FDA claims the Juul device specifically could pose a danger due to, "potentially harmful chemicals leaching from the company's proprietary e-liquid pods."

Juul's Defense

Amidst the chaos, Juul has temporarily secured its spot on store shelves. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit blocked the FDA's order. Though, this does not spare Juul from further legal trouble. The e-cigarette company has been allowed to sell its products until the appeals court can hear more information on the issue. Any possible ruling is quite unclear. In the wake of the FDA's request, Juul noted they had submitted a 125,000-page application to the FDA nearly two years ago. This application included several studies that evaluated the risks Juul's vapes pose to users' health. It was noted that while Juul's application was denied, the FDA approved applications made by competitors with similar products like R.J. Reynolds, Logic, and other companies. However, the FDA also denied many other applications.

How Does This Affect American E-Cigarette Users?

While the regulatory landscape that Juul faces seems to change day by day, they are still available for purchase. However, there is no indication of how long this could last. To be clear, this attempted order by the FDA applied only to Juul, and other e-cigarettes remain available. In the meantime, keep an eye out for new regulations.

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