The FDA wants to keep trendy JUUL vaping products and similar devices out of minors’ hands. | Creative Commons

The company behind a trendy electronic cigarette that’s attracted federal scrutiny because of its appeal to minors says it will invest $30 million over the next three years to help to combat underage use of its products.

JUUL Labs made the announcement a day after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced its own efforts to keep e-cigarettes, such as JUUL’s, out of the hands of minors.

The FDA announced a series of enforcement actions Tuesday that included an undercover sting on underage sales at stores and online as well as a request for JUUL Labs to provide documents to better understand “the reportedly high rates of youth use and the particular youth appeal of these products.”

“The troubling reality is that electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) such as e-cigarettes have become wildly popular with kids,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement announcing the federal crackdown. “We understand, by all accounts, many of them may be using products that closely resemble a USB flash drive, have high levels of nicotine and emissions that are hard to see. These characteristics may facilitate youth use, by making the products more attractive to children and teens.”

The FDA announced that it had been conducting a large, undercover operation on the sale of JUUL products to minors at stores and online. It also recently has sent warning letters to 40 retailers — including one in Lexington, Ky., and one in Greensburg, Ind., for violations related to illegal sales of these kinds of products to youths.

“This blitz, and resulting actions, should serve as notice that we will not tolerate the sale of any tobacco products to youth,” Gottlieb said.

The FDA noted that it also has contacted eBay about several listings for JUUL products on its website, and “we’re thankful for eBay’s swift action to remove the listings and voluntarily implement new measures to prevent new listings from being posted to the web retailer’s site.”

JUUL Labs plans to take several steps, including supporting efforts to raise the minimum age of purchasing JUUL and other vaping products to 21 and providing educational materials to increase parental awareness of its products, according to a company news release.

The company also says it will invest in research and development to evaluate potential technologies to prevent youths from using its products. It also plans to boost efforts to enforce appropriate age verification at retail and wants social media platforms to remove content showing youths using JUUL products or encouraging them to do so.

“We are committed to deterring young people, as well as adults who do not currently smoke, from using our products,” JUUL Labs Chief Executive Officer Kevin Burns said in the release. “We cannot be more emphatic on this point: No young person or non-nicotine user should ever try JUUL.”

Darla Carter is a hometown girl who recently joined the staff of Insider Louisville to mostly cover health. She previously served as a longtime health and fitness writer for The Courier-Journal, where she also worked for the Metro, Neighborhoods and Features departments. Prior to that, the award-winning journalist wrote for newspapers elsewhere in Kentucky and Tennessee, covering a range of topics, from education to courts. She's a graduate of Western Kentucky University, where she studied journalism and philosophy, and is the proud mom of two young children.


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