Juul Ends E-Cigarette Sales of Mint-Flavored Pods

Juul Labs, the nation’s largest seller of e-cigarettes, said on Thursday that it would stop selling mint-flavored pods, which have become especially popular among teenagers.

The move precedes an anticipated federal flavor ban that is to be announced soon, one that the Food and Drug Administration initially had said would include mint as well as menthol. In recent weeks, intense lobbying by the vaping and tobacco industries against a menthol ban has heightened speculation that menthol would be exempt from any prohibitions against flavors.

Juul said on Thursday that it would continue to sell menthol pods and its two tobacco products.

The company’s decision also followed the release earlier this week of two major surveys showing another year-over-year spike in teenage vaping of e-cigarettes, and the rising popularity of mint-flavored nicotine pods as other youth-friendly flavors like unicorn milk were pulled from retail shelves. Public health experts have urged the federal government and lawmakers to impose strict limits on the variety of e-cigarettes, which remain on the market despite little evidence that they are safe.

Besides the surveys showing about 27 percent of high school students reporting that they had vaped e-cigarettes recently, hospitals and doctors have been startled in recent months by an alarming outbreak of lung injuries largely related to vaping products containing THC, the high-inducing ingredient in marijuana. Some patients, however, have reported vaping both THC and nicotine products, leaving researchers to suggest there may be more than one culprit behind the respiratory illnesses.

Juul, which is the target of several investigations, including a criminal inquiry in Northern California and two into its marketing practices by the Federal Trade Commission and the F.D.A., has been blamed for much of the increase in teenage vaping and the risk its products carry for nicotine addiction.

In response to the backlash from parents, schools and lawmakers, the troubled company had already stopped selling an array of fruit- and dessert-flavored pods, like mango and crème brûlée, to retailers, and just recently stopped selling them online as well. The company said recently that mint-flavored pods made up about 70 percent of its latest sales.

A study released on Tuesday by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that teenagers surveyed in 2019 preferred mint and mango Juul flavors. One-third of the roughly 43,000 students in eighth, 10th and 12th grade who took the survey were selected at random and asked about their preferences. Of those students, 18 percent reported recent e-cigarette use, with nearly 13 percent using Juul. Eighth graders were most likely to use mango, mint and fruit. Tenth and 12th graders preferred mint, followed by mango.

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