U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb called out the country’s biggest vaping enterprise.
Gottlieb all but tagged both JUUL Labs CEO Kevin Burns and Altria CEO Howard Willard as liars in their efforts to combat teen vaping. He also remained perplexed over the Marlboro maker’s $12.8 billion investment in JUUL last December, according to cnbc.com.
To detail their philosophies further, Gottlieb said his office scheduled a face-to-face meeting with Burns and Willard over the next few weeks.
That should prove to be an interesting discussion.
JUUL, based in San Francisco, controls nearly 70 percent of the U.S. market and gained a broader platform with the backing from tobacco giant Altria.
Gottlieb said he also wants to hear the executives explain why they appeared to pull back on the federal agency’s mandate last September to eliminate marketing campaigns targeting minors.
“I’m concerned,” Gottlieb told cnbc.com. “Did something change? Do they have new data? Do they have a new understanding? Because they just made a very big commitment to support the expansion of pod-based products, which they said contributes to the youth epidemic.”
Altria went on record last November stating the company was alarmed with the “epidemic” of teen vaping and planned to pull some of its own “kid-friendly” products from stores.
Then, three months later it acquired a 35-percent minority stake of JUUL, significantly expanding its reach into the e-cigarette industry. Company officials suggested to its investors the merger will benefit from Altria’s distribution network and JUUL products could reach additional retail outlets.
What happened, the FDA chief asked?
A month before selling off a chunk of the fledgling company, JUUL officials announced it would halt production of fruity flavors and detailed new guidelines for retailers to follow in order to sell its products. JUUL officials countered by saying it was waiting on “formal guidance” by the FDA for vape shops to follow.
Gottlieb, who said Feb. 7 the FDA would release the new guidelines over the next 30 days, carries himself as one who does not like being lied to and continues to seek answers.
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