Juul, e-cigarette popular among teens, being investigated by FDA

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The Food and Drug Administration says it is preparing to launch a campaign to discourage teens from using e-cigarettes, also known as vaping. The FDA is also investigating the marketing strategies and impact of several vaping products, including the most popular e-cigarette, Juul, which is estimated to make up 72 percent of the e-cigarette market.

The agency says its new campaign is just part of its effort to find out why e-cigarette use is rampant among teenagers, and how to stop it. At the same time, parents are launching their own effort and asking why the government isn’t doing more, reports CBS News’ Anna Werner. 

Meredith Berkman, a mother of four, says she couldn’t sit and wait for the government to stop kids from using Juul. So she and two other moms recently launched the grassroots group Parents Against Vaping E-cigarettes to educate about the dangers of e-cigarettes, advocate against their use and lobby for legislative action.

“This is coming to epidemic proportions and it’s dangerous,” Berkman said. “I know what these teens are doing and I don’t want my 11-year-old to get caught up in that either, and we have to act about that now.”

The FDA says its campaign will use ads to try to convince teens not to vape. In April, the agency requested internal documents from Juul on areas including the company’s research and marketing. Of particular concern to advocacy groups: prior social media campaigns using young models in groups and bright colors.

Back in June, Juul executive Ashley Gould told “CBS This Morning” the company had changed its marketing approach and did not mean to attract teens. 

“I will take the criticism that we should have known. I will take that criticism. But we know now. We’re working very hard. And we are committed,” Gould said. 

In January of this year, Juul began a pilot program directed at schools, suggesting it could help discourage e-cigarette use. In emails obtained by CBS News, its consultant wrote the program was designed to “provide either an in-school program or a Saturday school alternative to discipline” and that Juul would fund the program. But some educators were skeptical and Juul has since dropped the idea, telling us in a statement, “We soon learned through feedback from schools, educators and policymakers that our efforts were largely discouraged.”

“I’m not surprised that this program got bad reviews,” said Matt Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

He says the Juul school program resembled prior tobacco industry efforts.

“School administrators wisely recognized that it’s simply an effort to get the name of the company before kids in a favorable way. Thus it is responsible administrators who said, ‘We don’t want you in our schools, we will educate our children,”‘ Myers said.

Juul denies that it resembled prior tobacco industry programs. The company says it’s working with the Iowa attorney general to stop teen use of Juul. It says it’s also trying to restrict youth access to Juul and is focused on helping adult smokers switch to Juul from regular cigarettes. 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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