FDA Bans Juul E-cigarettes Sales in US, Experts React
A report by Medscape reveals that the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned the sale of Juul brand e-cigarettes in the country. Dr. Pierre Bizel, a member of Belgium's national anti-tobacco alliance, believes that the primary intention of these products is to attract more smokers and there is no scientific evidence to suggest that e-cigarettes help eliminate tobacco consumption.
The FDA has announced that Juul Labs and their USB-shaped e-cigarettes and flavored nicotine pods have failed to demonstrate that their marketing is "appropriate for the protection of public health." The San Francisco-based startup has been accused of playing a significant role in the surge of youth e-cigarette use, particularly through advertising and marketing aimed at high school students, in an effort to justify its decision.
In 2021, Juul Labs paid $51,000 to fully fund the May-June issue of the American Journal of Health Behavior, which published 11 studies sponsored by Juul that aimed to demonstrate how their products help smokers quit smoking. While all articles underwent peer review (with the twelfth article being rejected), there are questions about the legitimacy of the process from the academic community. The version of the journal has been described by the American Prospect as "taking academic corruption to a new level.
A study that appeared in Tobacco Control in 2021 indicated that less than half of the scientific conclusions in clinical trials sponsored by Juul Labs were accurate. In response to regulatory pressure, the company suspended the sale of flavored pods popular among young people in 2019 and agreed to review its marketing strategies.
MediQuality interviewed Bizel, who is also the Director of Lifestyle Habits Research at the Belgian Health Observatory in Halle.
Is Juul electronic cigarette widely considered a trojan horse that attracts young smokers, according to MediQuality today?
Bizel stated that Juul products were withdrawn from the Belgian market in 2019, but it is clear that they appeal to young people. Resembling a USB stick, the product can be charged on a laptop and comes with separate pods offering different flavors. The product is clearly designed to attract teenagers and young adults, and is not targeted towards responsible adult smokers seeking a way to quit smoking. Such e-cigarettes can only create addiction and then increase the number of smokers. Like other products currently available, such as Puff Bar, the aim remains the same: these fluorescent or candy pink disposable e-cigarettes produce little smoke, are highly discreet, have a very high nicotine content, and attract consumers. After all, these are products manufactured by nicotine sellers.
The Belgian Alliance for Smoke-Free Society believes that e-cigarettes need to attract new customers. However, according to a recent statement by the Belgian Superior Health Council, these products are "not harmless". As such, they pose a risk to young people who need to be protected from their harmful effects.
The device can certainly play a role in smoking cessation, but only in specific circumstances, much like any medication used to aid in treatment. Otherwise, its effectiveness will be very low. Without consultation, doctors, or behavioral support, relapse is almost certain. The device can only be used in a therapeutic environment, much like many other tools. Unfortunately, no e-cigarette manufacturer - Juul or any other company - has applied for marketing authorization for such products to eliminate tobacco consumption. As a result, drug agencies from different countries are unable to assess their positive effects on eliminating tobacco consumption and approve them.
Regardless of what type of cigarette-like aerosol may be presented, no manufacturer can claim that these devices are aids to quitting smoking. Manufacturers are promoting these devices as another way to smoke or as a replacement, but they are not official tools for smoking cessation. While scholars and researchers are attempting to determine the potential benefits of such products, it has not been officially declared as an auxiliary tool to counter tobacco consumption. There is ambiguity involved.
Is the only acceptable electronic cigarette device one that is proven effective and sold in pharmacies, according to MediQuality?
Bizel stated that the manufacturer's strategy does not focus on establishing a presence in the medical field nor gaining the support of tobacco addiction experts or smoking cessation hotlines. Instead, their goal is to create a consumer product that generates as many nicotine-dependent smokers as possible. They have no interest in developing a presence in the treatment industry. Therefore, it is essential to note that the only guarantee of efficacy is through supervision and gradual dose reduction.
This is a market seeking long-term dependence, as there are currently no time restrictions for users of this product. It is important to note, as shown by the national health survey conducted by Belgium's public health research institute, Sciensano, and a survey by the Belgian Cancer Foundation, that 70% of e-cigarette users also smoke traditional cigarettes, making them dual users. This raises questions about the effectiveness of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool, as if they were effective, users would quit smoking altogether. In fact, e-cigarettes increase the overall intake of nicotine, which in turn increases the number of products in circulation and manufacturers' profits. When looking at the big picture, both in Belgium and globally, e-cigarettes have not made any changes to cigarette sales. The same amount of traditional tobacco is still being sold. This new product allows manufacturers to profit from both sides.
Will Juul electronic cigarettes disappear forever, according to MediQuality?
Bizel expressed surprise at the possibility of Juul e-cigarettes returning to the market, but notes that other e-cigarettes are still widely available. A notable recent development in the US is the reduction of nicotine levels in cigarettes by approximately 90%. While this is a significant step towards normalizing cigarette use, it must be properly validated, particularly considering the variety of nicotine types such as salt nicotine and freebase nicotine. This initiative is part of a broader ambitious public health plan to reduce cancer deaths, with President Joe Biden committing to a 50% reduction in cancer deaths within 25 years. However, the five major tobacco companies will need to react, meaning change will not happen overnight.
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