Juul faces a hazy future after teen-vaping critic Scott Gottlieb quits the FDA

By Ainsley Harris

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, the government official who declared teen vaping an “epidemic,” resigned on Tuesday after two years on the job. According to CNBC, Gottlieb wants to spend more time with his family, who live in Connecticut.

During Gottlieb’s tenure, the FDA began cracking down on e-cigarette sellers and manufacturers after surveys showed sharp increases in teen use of vaping products. Some research suggests that teens who vape are more likely to start smoking cigarettes.

Last spring, the agency sent warning letters to five e-cigarette manufacturers, including market-leader Juul, today worth $38 billion. Then, over the summer, the FDA conducted what it characterized as an “undercover blitz” targeting e-cigarette retailers suspected of selling to underage buyers. The investigation resulted in 1,300 warning letters and fines.

“I will not allow a generation of children to become addicted to nicotine through e-cigarettes,” Gottlieb said in November.

One of the biggest points of contention between the FDA and the e-cigarette industry has been the use of flavors. Juul and its competitors say that flavors are an essential draw for smokers looking to switch from cigarettes to vapes; the agency contends that flavors make teens especially susceptible to nicotine products, and would like to see them limited, or banned outright.

For more background on Juul and its battles with the FDA, read our November 2018 feature story on how it became the most embattled startup of last year.


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