FDA bans Juul; Frederick businesses pull products from shelves

·3 min read

Jun. 24—Frederick vape shops removed Juul products from shelves Thursday after federal health officials ordered an electronic cigarette maker to halt sales and distribution, citing public health concerns.

Juul is a brand of e-cigarette that dispenses nicotine in vapor form and comes in different flavors, sold in pods.

On Thursday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ordered Juul Labs Inc. to stop selling and distributing all vaping devices and pods it markets in the U.S. The ban took effect Thursday, FDA spokesperson Cherie Duvall-Jones wrote in an email.

After the FDA's announcement, local business owners began to pull Juul products from shelves.

Hamza Mahmood, who owns Smokers Paradise on McCain Drive, estimated that Juul products made up about 20% of his sales, but he did not seem particularly worried about the ban. He planned to remove Juul supplies from shelves Thursday.

"We're not really stressed about it," he said.

His store offers a variety of products that he can recommend as a substitute for Juul. And in recent years, he said, Juul's popularity waned, since Maryland added a 60% tax to it.

"Juul's slowly dying off," Mahmood said.

Failure to remove Juul products already on the U.S. market risks "enforcement action," the FDA said in a news release. Consequences could include civil money penalties, seizure or injunction, Duvall-Jones wrote. The FDA will be "closely monitoring" to ensure compliance by Juul, distributors and retailers, according to Duvall-Jones.

The ban does not restrict consumers who possess or use Juul products, according to the FDA.

E-cigarettes and similar products have played a "disproportionate role in the rise in youth vaping," according to the FDA's release. The agency said there was "insufficient and conflicting data" regarding potentially harmful chemicals leaching from the Juul pods.

In a statement posted online, Joe Murillo, the chief regulatory officer for Juul Labs, said: "We respectfully disagree with the FDA's findings and decision and continue to believe we have provided sufficient information and data based on high-quality research to address all issues raised by the agency.

"In our applications, which we submitted over two years ago, we believe that we appropriately characterized the toxicological profile of Juul products, including comparisons to combustible cigarettes and other vapor products, and believe this data, along with the totality of the evidence, meets the statutory standard of being 'appropriate for the protection of the public health.'"

The Associated Press reported that companies must show that their e-cigarettes benefit public health to stay on the market.

"In practice, that means proving that adult smokers who use them are likely to quit or reduce their smoking, while teens are unlikely to get hooked on them," the AP reported.

"We intend to seek a stay and are exploring all of our options under the FDA's regulations and the law, including appealing the decision and engaging with our regulator. We remain committed to doing all in our power to continue serving the millions of American adult smokers who have successfully used our products to transition away from combustible cigarettes, which remain available on market shelves nationwide," Murillo's statement said.

Frederick businesses were not taking chances and followed the FDA's order.

"As soon as we heard there's a ban, we pulled them off," said Samantha Bush, who works at Smoke 10 in Frederick.

Before the ban, Bush said, she averaged about five Juul product sales a day as a full-time employee. She could not speak to specifics on how the ban could affect business but said, "It's gonna take a toll."

Sierra Shade, a manager at The Great Green Goat in Frederick, said Juul sales dipped when the maker stopped selling certain flavors a few years ago. Now, more customers buy disposables, she said. Shade said the store also took Juul products off shelves Thursday.

"Hopefully, it doesn't take too much profit away," she said.