JUUL Pulls Social Media Accounts and Flavoured Pods As FDA Gets Tough On Flavours

In an at times emotional statement Scott Gottlieb the commissioner of the FDA has announced plans to restrict the sale of flavoured e-liquids and pods.

Just what emotion is doing in a US Government statement is anyone’s guess but the opening three paragraphs set out the reason why he’s come to this decision and makes for uncomfortable reading.

scott-gottlieb
Dr Scott Gottlieb via reuters

Especially when he uses the cancer patients he once treated – his own battle with cancer and bringing up the fact he is a father of three worried about his kids becoming addicted to nicotine:

As a physician who cared for hospitalized cancer patients, I saw first-hand the devastation that smoking-related diseases had wrought on the lives of patients and their families, and dedicated myself to helping ease this suffering.

As a cancer survivor myself, I understand too well the uncertainty, grief and struggle that accompanies a cancer diagnosis.

And as a father of three young children, I hear daily from parents and teachers worried about the epidemic use of electronic cigarettes and nicotine addiction among kids.

Like I said opening with emotion is meant for us all to go awww bless…he cares…however he’s cleverly and inextricably linking cancer – smoking and e-cigarettes into one little bundle – which is disingenuous to say the least. Vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking and nicotine is not carcinogenic.

Call me an old cynic but your emotion isn’t an argument and neither is clouding the issue – look there’s clear blue healthier water between lit tobacco and vaping it’s that simple. To be fair he does try to make the ‘teen vape epidemic’ stand with data from the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS).

However as I wrote in the article The American Anti Vape Crowd Has Completely Lost the Plot… that data like all statistics is open to interpretation – read the article to see what CASAA has to say.

Tobacco Flavours OK!

Strangely [or maybe not so] he’s allowing mint/menthol – tobacco and unflavoured e-liquid and pod flavours to remain being sold in shops that do not require age checks. Now I wonder who apart from JUUL makes the bulk of say tobacco and menthol flavoured sealed pods…Big Tobacco maybe..? Just a thought…

Incidentally as I reported in my article …Smoke and Mirrors, Big Tobacco corporation Altria – parent company of Phillip Morris Inc and therefore IQOS – had already decided to remove its flavoured pods from the MarkTEN brand leaving just the mint and tobacco…great timing…move along nothing to see here.

It seems it’s more than OK for kids to ‘see’ menthol and tobacco flavoured pods but not say mango or cucumber? Strange…

But oh wait…the anti-vape crowd believe that fruit and the sweeter flavours are purely designed to entice the poor little kiddies and nothing to do with the fact adults like those flavours too…right?

But it’s that old [and tired] chestnut “we have to protect the children” that will stick in most vapers craw. As I’ve said many many times it should be down to the individual point of sale that should be punished and NOT vapers who enjoy sweeter flavours – it’s that simple.

JUUL Stops Sale Of Flavored Pods

The FDA statement comes as JUUL – the it would appear catalyst of this whole war on vaping in America – announced it would be removing its flavoured pods from sale:

As of today [Nov 13th 2018] we stopped accepting retail orders for our Mango, Fruit, Creme, and Cucumber JUUL pods to the over 90,000 retail stores that sell our product, including traditional tobacco retailers (e.g., convenience stores) and specialty vape shops.

Not only that…they’re pulling ALL of their social media presence except Twitter which will be used purely for none ‘promotional’ tweets…more on that bombshell in a moment!

juul flavours pulled

To say this is capitulation is an understatement – with their multi billion dollars they could have at least put up a fight on behalf of their billions of users – but nope they threw the towel in [and all their spare towels] before the first round bell rang. And have in fact gone even further than the FDA has asked which really makes one wonder…more on JUUL later.

Only Age Restricted Shops Can Sell Flavours

OK let’s look at the key points from the statement and how it will impact on vapers in the states.

In a nutshell all flavoured ENDS [Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems eg e-cigs] can now only be sold in age restricted stores – such as vape shops and liquor stores. Online stores will have to have a robust age restriction process that like bricks and mortar shops will be ‘policed’ by FDA snoop squads.

Shops that have areas only accessible by age appropriate customers can still carry flavoured products but again will be ‘policed’:

The FDA is not revisiting the compliance policy with respect to ENDS products sold exclusively in age-restricted locations – for instance, a stand-alone tobacco retailer (such as a vape shop) that adequately prevents persons under the age of 18 from entering the store at any time; or, a section of an establishment that adequately prevents entry of persons under the age of 18 and the flavored ENDS products are not visible or accessible to persons under the age of 18 at any time.

OK so what’s the difference between a vape shop employee asking for ID and not say Joe Bloggs’ corner shop in a small town in the heart of America? Especially as it was found recently the vast majority of sales to minors of ENDS products came from convenience stores with a tiny percentage coming from vape shops…and as is the case with booze and fags – kids always find a way but you don’t see liquor stores under the same intense scrutiny…

vape-shops

Whilst tobacco and menthol flavours are for now given a pass Gottleib warned of the consequences if it was shown minors were now switching to those flavours:

At this time, ENDS products with tobacco, mint or menthol flavors, as well as any non-flavored ENDS products, sold in any location, would not be included in any policy revisions.

This distinction among flavors seeks to maintain access for adult users of these products, including adults who live in rural areas and may not have access to an age-restricted location, while evidence of their impacts continues to develop.

It also recognizes that combustible cigarettes are currently available in menthol in retail locations that are not age-restricted. This approach is informed by the potential public health benefit for adult cigarette smokers who may use these ENDS products as part of a transition away from smoking.

As I keep saying it’s all a little odd to say the least. In the statement he points out that mint and menthol in both lit tobacco form and within ENDS products has been shown to appeal to younger users…but those flavours are fine..?

I guess my confusion could be cleared up by a barrage of sexed up evidence from the anti-vape crowd and of course Big Tobacco and Pharma lobbyists…slap my thighs and call me a conspiracy theorist.

FDA Plans To Monitor Under Age Sales

I mentioned the FDA snoopers out there:

The FDA, however, will not ignore data regarding the popularity of mint- and menthol-flavored ENDS among kids. We will continue to use all available surveillance resources to monitor the rates and use patterns among youth and adults for these products, and we will reconsider our policies with respect to these products, if appropriate.

Beware big brother is watching you. Or should that be Big Tobacco and Pharma is watching you.

As to flavours the FDA say are directly targeting kids Gottlieb makes no bones about what will happen:

The FDA will pursue the removal from the market of those ENDS products that are marketed to children and/or appealing to youth. This could include using popular children’s cartoon or animated characters, or names of products favored by kids like brands of candy or soda.

To be fair [I can be] we’ve all seen irresponsible fly by night e-liquid companies in particular come out with cartoony and at times blatant copyrighted packaging and names – those idiots have a lot to answer for.

fight the flavoured e-liquid ban

However and in saying that just how you identify ENDS products that are marketed to kids is I guess an OKish thing to say. I doubt any responsible brands call on it’s Pied Piper department to suck those kids into trying the products – however its the appeal to kids that makes me scoff.

Your average 17 to 18 year is probably more likely to opt for tobacco or mint as it suggests an air of sophistication and maybe even an adult status among his/her peers…adults quitting lit tobacco tend to move away from tobacco flavours quite quickly preferring the fresher fruits and sweeter varieties….again just me thinking out loud 😉

Tobacco flavours will be on full view as will mint and menthol which even in his statement he admits appeal to younger but of age smokers and vapers – like I said strange indeed.

JUUL Shuts Down Social Media and Steps Up Age Verification And Secret Shoppers

But it’s JUUL that has really sucked up to Gottlieb and his FDA in a big way. I called it capitulation which is a nice way of saying ‘sell out’.

As I’ve shown they’re removing ALL flavoured pods from sale in 90,000+ stores INCLUDING specialist vape shops! These pods can now only be bought direct from the JUUL website which incidentally is now having its already vigorous age verifcation software upgraded.

Given JUUL pods were probably the greatest source of income in many vape shops across America that’s a big hole in sales for one and for two if you have no internet access and your local store no longer sells your preferred pod – what are the chances you’ll go back to smoking? Certainly possible and probably probable – good job Gottlieb.

Speaking of the internet…if I told you on the back of this fiasco JUUL was planning to pull ALL of it’s social media accounts would you believe me?

juul social media closed

Probably not…well here ‘ya go how do you like ‘dem apples not a flavour pun…probably 😉

We are attacking the presence of JUUL Labs on social media in two ways – eliminating our own social media accounts and continuing to monitor and remove inappropriate material from third-party accounts.

More than 99 percent of all social media content related to JUUL Labs is generated through third-party users and accounts with no affiliation to our company. Nevertheless, we understand that many young people get their information from social media.

To remove ourselves entirely from participation in the social conversation, we have decided to shut down our U.S.-based social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram. We have never used Snapchat. Our presence on Twitter will be confined to non-promotional communications only.

YouTube will only be used for posting testimonials of former adult smokers who have switched to the JUUL system, in part to support online content on JUUL.com. We have already imposed 21+ age-gating restrictions for users to access our YouTube content.

By deterring social media promotion of the JUUL system by exiting our accounts, we can better prevent teens and non-smokers from ever becoming interested in the device.

What in the actual fuck…? And what’s with the word ‘attacking?’ More like pandering…

Like I said capitulation was the gentlest word I could come up with.

BTW here in the UK JUUL recently announced a multi million dollar deal with supermarket giant Sainsburys. At the time of writing I understand the flavoured pods will remain on sale in the UK, obviously I’ll keep you informed of that.

Personally and given the way they’ve literally behaved I’d boycott them…but that’s just me.

Final Thoughts

JUUL was I assumed an independent vape company first and foremost with nothing linking them to Big Tobacco and Big Pharma – that I can see anyway – though these days investments are cleverly hidden.

Given their HUGE growth and cash reserves one would have thought they could have brought in big bucks lawyers to challenge this pre-emptive strike on flavoured products and vaping in America – but no – they folded like a used damp tissue and yeah I’m bloody right in calling for a boycott – fuck them like they’ve fucked vaping.

OK swear rant over 😉

As to the FDA’s statement – look it’s what we were expecting to be honest. They haven’t slammed the door on vaping and in particular flavoured vape products yet but trust me they are within inches of slamming it shut.

The only thing that can stop it is more advocacy groups – health organizations and most definitely apathetic vapers over there to stick their collective feet into the jamb and begin pulling it back open. As I said back in 2017 they have an uphill battle to say the least and the more I see and read the more I think vaping as we know it in America is doomed.

save the vape america

Look I wrote the quote below this back in July 2017 in the piece The State of the Vape – A Look at the Impact of the FDA Announcement. Social media lit up like a Christmas tree with back slapping and high fives celebrating vaping in America was saved. At the time I said I could see daylight for sure but it was most definitely premature to celebrate:

…for me whilst Gottlieb has fired the opening shots in the war against vaping there’s many battles left to fight and until the two main American advocacy groups are both called to arms to actually do something or another one is formed – then the state of vaping in the states will remain as it is – uncertain.

I think the word ‘uncertain’ said it all and I’m definitely not one to blow his own trumpet – but apathy reigned and politicians and lobbyists didn’t stop trying to pull vaping down but the advocacy groups definitely took their eyes of the ball.

Anti-Vape Crowd Trying It On In The UK

So why should that bother us here in the UK and Europe?

The ripples have already begun with those idiots over at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids calling for ban on JUUL pod flavours here in the UK and especially the marketing of the brand with ads:

…being used by young, attractive adults in social, sexual settings that made it look like the coolest new thing…

It is essential for the government to rapidly step in and prevent the sort of social media marketing that turned this into a fad.

Might I suggest our anti-vaping American friend jolly well sods off from these shores spouting his spiteful shite.

If he took a closer look he’d see that here in the UK at least whilst no-one wants to see little kids vaping our Government is at least listening to the real evidence and NOT non factual scaremongering lobby groups – and BTW we’ve just relaxed advertising rules for e-cigs with hopefully more loosening to come – like I said we’re actually forward thinking here.

juul

And yes I know I reckon JUUL users across the world should boycott the brand for what they’ve done to vaping and in effect that means I’m playing into the hands of their opponents – or am I?

We as vapers made this industry – we made the choice to quit smoking in general with no help from anyone. There’s plenty and I mean a plethora of good pod kits out there with JUUL just being one and if I’m brutal nowhere near one of the best I’ve tried.

JUUL has stuck it to us so let the market stick it to them.

And for goodness sake if you work in a vape shop anywhere in the world please make sure your ID checks are rigorous and then some – just don’t give the bastards an inch because as they’ve shown they’ll take more than a mile.

And please DO NOT forget the FDA will be holding a public hearing looking into all things e-cigarette on December 5th.

During this they will be looking at the option of medicating young people who are currently vaping…yes really.

Neil H
I began vaping over 7 years ago and found it easy to give up a 40 per day roll-up habit! DTL: Lost Vape DNA75C BF - Dead Rabbit SQ - MTL: JacVapour Sandstorm DNA 75 + Savour RTA...Beater set-up Lost Vape DNA 250c and Reload RTA I'm a former journalist and now a sort of writer and author.. I'm an Army veteran - adore dogs and never happier than with a good book on a beach.

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