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Federal court blocks FDA ban on Juul e-cigarette sales in U.S.

WSJ: FDA to order e-cigarettes off U.S. market
WSJ: FDA to order e-cigarettes off U.S. market 02:05

A federal court on Friday granted a request by Juul Labs to temporarily block an order by the Food and Drug Administration to stop selling its electronic cigarettes in the U.S.

The e-cigarette maker had asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to stay what it calls an "extraordinary and unlawful action" by the FDA that would require it to immediately halt its business. The company, which is partly owned by tobacco giant Altria, filed an emergency motion with the appeals court as it prepares to appeal the FDA's decision.

The FDA said Thursday that Juul must stop selling its vaping device and its tobacco and menthol flavored cartridges. The action was part of a sweeping effort by the agency to bring scientific scrutiny to the multibillion-dollar vaping industry after years of regulatory delays.

To stay on the market, companies must show that their e-cigarettes benefit public health. In practice, that means proving that adult smokers who use them are likely to quit or reduce their smoking, while teens are unlikely to get hooked on them.

The FDA said Juul's application left regulators with significant questions and didn't include enough information to evaluate any potential health risks. Juul said it submitted enough information and data to address all issues raised. The company said the FDA refused its request to put its order on hold to avoid a massive disruption to its business.

Rise in youth vaping

Marketed as an alternative for smokers trying to kick the habit, e-cigarettes have helped some adults do exactly that. However, the products have also ushered in an epidemic of youth vaping.  

Studies have reached conflicting results about whether vaping truly helps smokers quit, and efforts by the FDA to rule on vaping products and their claims were repeatedly slowed by industry lobbying and competing political interests, the Associated Press reported. 

The vaping issue took on new urgency in 2018 when Juul's high-nicotine, fruity-flavored cartridges became a nationwide craze among middle and high school students. In 2020, the FDA limited flavors in small vaping devices to just tobacco and menthol. Separately, Congress raised the purchase age for all tobacco and vaping products to 21

While Juul remains a top seller, its share of the U.S. e-cigarette market has dipped to about half. A recent federal survey showed a drop in the teen vaping rate and a shift away from Juul's products.

The devices heat a nicotine solution into a vapor that's inhaled, bypassing many of the toxic chemicals produced by burning tobacco.

FDA has OK'd other e-cigarettes

The company said in its Friday court filing that it submitted a 125,000-page application to the FDA nearly two years ago. It said the application included several studies to evaluate the health risks among Juul users.

Juul said that the FDA cannot argue that there was a "critical and urgent public interest" in immediately removing its products from the market when the agency allowed them to be sold during its review.

The company noted that the FDA denied its application while authorizing those submitted by competitors with similar products. The FDA has OK'd e-cigarettes from R.J. Reynolds, Logic and other companies, while rejecting many others.

In 2019, Juul was pressured into halting all advertising and eliminating its fruit and dessert flavors after they became popular among middle and high school students. The next year, the FDA limited flavors in small vaping devices to just tobacco and menthol.

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