The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned Juul Labs on Monday for marketing its e-cigarettes as safer than traditional cigarettes, the latest move by the agency to curb the use of vaping devices that have become extremely popular among teens.
Juul already has come under scrutiny for its marketing initiatives, including its use of social media influencers to promote its vaping devices, with the Federal Trade Commission launching an investigation last month.
“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,” acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless said in a statement.
The FDA’s warning letter also raises issues with certain statements made by those attending a July U.S. congressional hearing in which a panel grilled Juul over an “holistic health education” camp it funded, as part of efforts to market its products directly to school-aged children.
According to a testimony at the hearing, a company representative speaking at a presentation in a school claimed that students “… 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.”
The company uses a nicotine concentration of 5 percent in its products, which potentially could increase their addictiveness, and nicotine salts that are used to mask the harshness of nicotine, the agency said questioning their use.
“We are reviewing the letters and will fully cooperate,” a Juul spokesman said.
The FDA has also asked Juul to provide a written response within 15 days outlining its plan to correct its violations and to provide requested documents and information within 30 days of the date of the letter.