Juul Labs, the makers of the wildly popular Juul e-cigarettes, announced today that it will stop selling most of its flavored vaping pods in retail stores. The company will also put an end to its social media promotions and advertisements. The decision on the part of Juul comes as the government appears ready to apply more scrutiny to the vape brand and its potential targeting of kids.
According to an “action plan” posted on the company website, Juul will stop fulfilling orders from retailers looking to stock its creme, cucumber, fruit and mango flavored Juul pods. However, it will continue to sell its menthol, mint and tobacco flavored pods, as they replicate the experience of a standard cigarette.
The lineup of sweeter flavors will only be available through Juul’s website, which will employ an age verification system to limit sales to people who are 21 years of age or older. Purchasers will have to provide their name, date of birth, permanent address and the last four digits of their social security number to get the flavored pods. The information has to be verified by a third-party source and will be cross-referenced with public records to confirm the buyer’s age. Juul said it will allow other retailers to sell the flavors again if they comply with a similarly strict age verification process.
In addition to pulling the flavored pods from store shelves, Juul Labs will also remove its presence from social media. The company is shutting down its accounts on Facebook and Instagram. It will also limit its Twitter and YouTube presence to non-promotional communications and will work with social media companies to remove Juul content targeted at underage users.
Juul’s goodwill efforts, which follow a similar move from competitor Altria, might be too little too late with the federal government is already breathing down its neck. Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration gave e-cigarette companies a deadline to prove they aren’t targeting kids with their products. Last month, the agency seized marketing materials from Juul in its ongoing effort to crack down on underage use of e-cigarettes.
Teen vaping has become a problem in recent years. A report from the Surgeon General found a 900 percent increase in e-cigarette use by high school students from 2011 to 2015. Earlier this year, FDA head Scott Gottlieb called teen vaping an “epidemic of addiction.”