Juul stops sales of mint-flavored pods

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A Missouri school district sues e-cigarette maker Juul Labs.

Juul Labs will immediately stop online sales of mint Juulpods and will stop accepting orders for them from retailers, Juul Labs’ CEO K.C. Crosthwaite said Thursday.

Juul announced last month that it would stop the sale of flavors other than tobacco, mint and menthol. Some anti-smoking groups criticized the move, saying it didn’t go far enough. Juul now says it will stick to selling only Virginia Tobacco, Classic Tobacco and Menthol flavors in the United States.

The company said the decision comes after research published earlier this week showed mint flavor was attractive to young people who vape. Studies published in the medical journal JAMA found that nearly 60% of high school students who vape use Juul, the market leader, and mint was the most popular flavor among US 10th and 12th graders.

An estimated 2.4 million high school and middle school students use flavored e-cigarettes, one of the studies found. Fruit was the most commonly reported flavor category, at 66.1% for high school and 67.7% for middle school, followed by menthol or mint at 57.3% for high school and 31.1% for middle school.

“These results are unacceptable and that is why we must reset the vapor category in the U.S. and earn the trust of society by working cooperatively with regulators, Attorneys General, public health officials, and other stakeholders to combat underage use,” Crosthwaite said in a statement. “We will support the upcoming FDA flavor policy and will follow the PMTA process.”

The decision comes as the US Food and Drug Administration is expected to soon publish a final rule that would remove some flavored nicotine vaping products from the US market. Juul said Thursday it has refrained from lobbying the administration on its draft flavor guidance.

Last month, more than 50 health and advocacy groups sent letters to US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and first lady Melania Trump, urging the Trump administration to support a plan that would require e-cigarette companies to take all flavored products off the market, including mint and menthol. The groups said they were responding to recent media reports that the Trump administration could back down from its earlier stance by including exceptions for mint and menthol.

Pro-vaping groups often argue that flavors are an important tool to help adult smokers quit using combustible cigarettes.