The US Food and Drug Administration has given Juul Labs and four other e-cigarette companies 60 days to prove they can keep their products away from minors, or be pulled from the market.
“We see clear signs that youth use of electronic cigarettes has reached an epidemic proportion,” said FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb. “In my view, they treated these issues like a public relations challenge, rather than seriously considering their legal obligations, the public health mandate and the existential threat to these products.”
The agency also sent warning letters to 1,100 online and brick-and-mortar retailers, as well as issuing 131 fines, as “part of a large-scale, undercover nationwide blitz to crack down on the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.”
In addition to Juul, the four other products that face the FDA’s reckoning are Vuse, Blue, Markten XL, and Logic. According to the FDA, together they make up 97% of the US e-cig market. Juul recently sought $1.2 billion in funding to expand into international markets.
In April, the FDA announced an investigation on whether or not Juul was deliberately targeting youths, and the company has submitted thousands of pages of records for review. As Quartz reported earlier this month, Juul’s founders say they invented their product as an alternative for smokers—they met on a smoke break as design students at Stanford—but a slew of studies and lawsuits suggest JUUL might be addicting an entire generation to nicotine.
A spokeswoman for Juul told the New York Times: “Juul Labs will work proactively with the FDA in response to its request. We are commited to preventing underage use of our product, and we want to be part of the solution in keeping e-cigarettes out of the hands of young people.”