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E-Cig Players Respond to FDA Crackdown

Reactions support initiatives to keep underage youth from vaping

SILVER SPRING, Md. -- Major manufacturers and a consumer-products group reacted to recent moves by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to curb underage use of electronic cigarettes.

In general, e-cigarette makers support the overall goals set forth by the FDA, which on April 24 announced a plan to address teenage use of e-cigarette. The plan includes citing retailers for underage sales, going after online retailers for doing the same and investigating marketing tactics potentially targeting youth.

A day after the FDA announcement, San Francisco-based Juul Labs said it supported the FDA’s efforts and agreed with several state and local lawmakers that have moved to increase the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21.

Fontem Ventures

Fontem Ventures, the Charlotte, N.C.-based maker of blu e-cigarettes, said in a statement, “We implement a number of youth-protection initiatives, including online age-verification mechanisms on blu.com, clear product labelling that states ‘not for sale to minors,’ and branding that avoids any association with candy, toys, cartoons or other products popular with youth. In all blu sales and marketing activities, we are very clear that vaping products are an adult-only category.”

Similar to Juul’s response, Fontem said its products were designed for adult smokers seeking an alternative to combustible, tobacco products. “We welcome the FDA’s acknowledgement that e-cigarettes could provide ‘a potentially less harmful alternative for currently addicted individual adult smokers,’ ” it said.

Altria Group

A day after the FDA announcement, Richmond, Va.-based Altria Group Inc., sent out a Tweet referring to a marketing-responsibility statement on its website: “Our company’s products are meant for adults, and society expects us to market them responsibly. We understand and agree. Our goal is to build relationships between our brands and their adult consumers while taking steps designed to limit reach to unintended audiences.”

Spark Vapor

Officials with Camarillo, Calif.-based Spark Vapor Brands took issue with some of the FDA statements. From Spark’s perspective, the FDA “sounded the alarm,” but produced data summaries “predominantly from 2011 through 2015 ... [which] are taken out of a larger context.”

In the view of Spark, the FDA’s comments “mask differentiation between experimentation vs. constant use … [and] present statistical percentages without data on the rotation of teens into and out of the vape category within the larger total.”

Spark said it merchandises products in compliance with FDA rules, designed its website to restrict teen access and has no interest in selling products to minors.

Consumer Choice Center

And the Washington, D.C.-based Consumer Choice Center said the FDA must act on the issue of underage youth and vaping, but said the agency should not forget the benefits of e-cigarettes for adult smokers.

“We take [the FDA’s] announcement as a potentially positive step, if the FDA action signals its ability to at once enforce existing laws preventing sales to minors, while at the same time making sure that adult smokers are aware that products like Juul are significantly less harmful than cigarettes,” said Jeff Stier, senior fellow with the Consumer Choice Center. “We call on the FDA to take action on this front immediately, by unequivocally informing smokers that these products are dramatically less harmful than cigarettes.”

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