Juul Labs Inc on Thursday stopped selling fruit and dessert e-cigarette flavors, acknowledging the public’s “lack of trust” in the vaping industry.
The voluntary step is the company’s latest attempt to weather a growing political backlash that blames its flavored nicotine products for hooking a generation of teenagers on e-cigarettes.
Juul, the best-selling e-cigarette brand in the US, has been besieged by scrutiny, including multiple investigations by the US Congress, federal agencies and several state attorneys general.
The company is also being sued by adults and underage Juul users who claim they became addicted to nicotine through the company’s products.
The administration of US President Donald Trump has proposed banning nearly all vaping flavors.
The flavors affected by the announcement — mango, creme, fruit and cucumber — account for less than 10 percent of Juul’s sales.
The flavors had only been sold through Juul’s Web site after the company pulled them from US stores in November last year.
Juul is to continue selling its most popular flavors — mint and menthol.
A spokesman said the company is reviewing its products and has not made “any final decisions.”
Mint and menthol account for most of Juul’s retail sales, analysts said, adding that they are the most popular flavors among teenagers.
The San Francisco-based company is also to continue selling its tobacco-flavored vaping pods.
The sales concession comes less than a month after a major shakeup at the privately held firm, in which it pledged to stop advertising and agreed to not lobby against the US administration’s proposed flavor ban.
“We must reset the vapor category by earning the trust of society, and working cooperatively with regulators, policymakers and stakeholders,” new Juul chief executive K.C. Crosthwaite said in a statement.
Crosthwaite was named chief executive last month. He previously worked as an executive for Marlboro maker Altria Group Inc, which is also Juul’s biggest investor.
The move marked a remarkable shift for Juul, which had argued for years that its flavors help adult smokers quit cigarettes, but the announcement does not necessarily mean the permanent end of Juul’s flavors.
Instead, Crosthwaite said the company would defer to the decision of the US Food and Drug Administration, which has set a deadline of May next year for manufacturers to submit their vaping products for review.
Under the agency’s standards, only vaping products that represent a net benefit to public health are to remain on the market.
If the company can show that its products are less harmful than cigarettes and can help adults switch, they could presumably return.
However, many experts doubt that the company would be able to win the endorsement, given the popularity of Juul among underage users.
Underage vaping has reached epidemic levels, US health officials say.
In the latest US government survey, more than one in four high-school students reported using e-cigarettes in the previous month, despite federal law banning sales to those under 18.
While Juul agreed to stop lobbying against a flavor ban, other industry players have not.
The Vapor Technology Association is launching a national marketing campaign aimed at stopping the White House plan by using the slogan: “I vape, I vote.”
A poll released on Thursday showed that Americans narrowly favor banning the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, although younger adults are more likely to oppose the idea.
Banning flavors is supported by 52 percent of adults of all ages and opposed by 44 percent, the Kaiser Family Foundation poll showed.
However, 63 percent of adults aged 18 to 29 opposed banning the sale of flavored e-cigarettes.
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