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More problems with e-vaporizers: Did Juul misrepresent safety?

Lately, e-cigarettes have been a hot topic in the news. We continue to consider whether the devices are unreasonably dangerous, especially when used by minors.

As we've discussed previously, there have been a large number of e-cigarette-related illnesses recently, some leading to death. The illnesses and deaths have not been linked to a single brand of vaporizer. Many of those sickened admitted they had been using vaporizers containing THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana. THC vaporizers are illegal in Tennessee and other states that have not legalized cannabis products, and they are also illegal federally. This means they are largely unregulated and could contain contaminants.

We've also discussed how common vaping is among teens, even though e-cigarettes containing either nicotine or THC are illegal for teens to have in all 50 states. A University of Michigan study recently found that 37.3% of high school seniors reported vaping in the last year, and 66.6% of teens said it's easy to get ahold of vaping devices and e-liquids.

Neither story directly implicates Juul Labs, the leading e-cigarette company in the United States. However, Juul has been under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission to determine if the company knowingly marketed nicotine products to teens. Nicotine is harmful to teenagers, as it can affect adolescent brain development. And, teens are especially vulnerable to nicotine addiction.

Now, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning letter to Juul. It accuses the company of violating federal regulations by promoting vaping as a safer alternative to cigarettes before having sufficient scientific evidence to back up that claim.

The FDA isn't actually saying that vaping is not a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes. It's still possible they are. However, the evidence one way or the other is not yet in.

Nevertheless, Juul has reportedly been advertising its products as if they were proven to be safer than traditional cigarettes:

  • In a post to Juul's website, the company's CEO allegedly wrote that its e-vaporizers were designed to "heat nicotine liquid and deliver smokers the satisfaction that they want without the combustion and harm associated with it."
  • The FDA alleges that a Juul representative made a presentation to students saying Juul vaporizers were "much safer than cigarettes" and "totally safe."
  • uul's "Make the Switch" campaign implies that e-cigarettes are a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes.

The FDA is also seeking documents from Juul about its marketing practices, technical details about the products and any scientific data the company has to prove its claims.

Are e-cigarettes unreasonably dangerous? Are they marketed deceptively? Do manufacturers target teens? We will continue to update the story as it develops.

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