September 21, 2019

Stanton A. Glantz, PhD

FDA to investigate Juul over SF ads claiming vaping is safer than cigarettes

The San Francisco Chronicle just published a great story on a complaint that SF Supervisor Shamann Walton filed with the FDA reporting that Juul was making illegal therapeutic (cessation) and modified risk claims as part of its campaign for its Proposition C initiative that would overturn existing regulations of e-cigs in San Francisco. 

As Catherine Ho reported in her story, “Under federal law, tobacco manufacturers including Juul and other e-cigarette makers cannot claim their products are less harmful than cigarettes, or claim that they help people quit cigarettes, unless the FDA has granted them permission after reviewing scientific evidence showing the claims are true. The agency ordered Juul on Sept. 9 to immediately stop making unproven safety claims or face civil penalties or seizure of its products.”

The FDA warning letter to Juul specifically told Juul that neither Juul nor its agents should be making unauthorized claims.  This includes quoting other people.

And Juul is continuing to ignore the FDA’s warning.  The flyer below (which quotes Mike Siegel) was being distributed yesterday at UCSF.

As the Chronicle article points out, the First Amendment protects people’s right to lie in political campaigns.  Whether making illegal therapeutic and reduced risk claims in the context of a political campaign is murkier.

It may be that Juul could defend these claims in court, but they may also be digging the hole deeper with the FDA.  Walton’s letter and FDA’s response has be to driving Juul’s lawyers nuts.  The question is whether they will force Juul to stop making claims in their Prop C ads that violate the FDA law.