The FDA is cracking down on Juul e-cig sales to minors

The FDA has its eye on Juul Labs, the e-cigarette company that has captured nearly half of the $2 billion e-cig market.

Yesterday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced a new initiative called the Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan. While the agency is focused on making sure kids don’t have easy access to any e-cigs, the Juul vaporizer seems to be of particular concern to them.

As part of the initiative, the FDA has sent a request for information to Juul Labs in an effort to understand why young people are so attracted to the product.

Over the past year, a number of reports have suggested that teen vape use, especially with the Juul, is steeply on the rise.

The request is for documents related to “product marketing; research on the health, toxicological, behavioral or physiologic effects of the products, including youth initiation and use; whether certain product design features, ingredients or specifications appeal to different age groups; and youth-related adverse events and consumer complaints associated with the products.”

In response, Juul Labs issued a press release announcing its plan to combat underage use. The strategy includes an initial investment of $30 million over the next three years going towards independent research, youth and parent education and community engagement efforts. Juul Labs also said it will support federal and state initiatives to raise the legal minimum purchase age to 21+. The company website has required that purchasers be 21 or older since August 2017.

Here’s what Juul CEO Kevin Burns had to say about it:

Our company’s mission is to eliminate cigarettes and help the more than one billion smokers worldwide switch to a better alternative. We are already seeing success in our efforts to enable adult smokers to transition away from cigarettes and believe our products have the potential over the long-term to contribute meaningfully to public health in the U.S. and around the world. At the same time, we are committed to deterring young people, as well as adults who do not currently smoke, from using our products. We cannot be more emphatic on this point: No young person or non-nicotine user should ever try JUUL.

Juul Labs is not the only organization that the FDA is cracking down on. The agency said it had sent out 40 warning letters to retailers selling e-cigs, including the Juul, to minors. Some of those retailers were caught as the result of a ‘blitz’ that has been underway since the beginning of April.

The agency has also asked eBay to take down all listings of Juul vaporizers, which run the risk of being sold to minors.

Alongside the FDA’s request for information from Juul Labs, the agency is also sending out similar letters to other e-cig manufacturers.

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Facebook warns GDPR could flatten or reduce European user count

Europe’s sweeping privacy law GDPR goes into effect May 25th, and Facebook is being forced to push users through new agreements to terms of service changes required to comply with the law. That’s why during today’s successful Q1 2018 earnings report call, Facebook CFO David Wehner warned that “we believe MAU or DAU might be flat or down in Q2 due to the GDPR rollout.” He also said that while Facebook doesn’t expect a significant impact on ads from GDPR, there may be a slight impact and it will be monitoring for that. Wehner notes that GDPR will impact the global online advertising industry so it may be hard to tell what the exact repercussions are for Facebook.

Wehner later clarified that’s “what we’re expecting given that you’re having to bring people through these consent flows, and we have been modeling it and expect there would be a flat to down impact on MAU and DAU.” Facebook went on to describe how if users change their ad privacy settings through the GDPR prompts to allow less targeting, ads could be less effective, so advertisers would pay less for them.

“Fundamentally we believe we can continue to build a great ads business” while continuing to protect people’s privacy, Wehner explained. He said what’s important is Facebook’s relative value to advertisers, which theoretically shouldn’t change since all ad platforms are impacted by GDPR.

Facebook unveiled its GDPR-related changes and how users will be asked to consent to them last week, and drew heavy criticism. Facebook employed “dark patterns” in the design of the consent flow, coercing users to agree to the changes without fully considering them. Meanwhile, it minimized the size and visual prominence of the buttons to revoke permissions from Facebook or reject the changes outright and terminate their account.

Facebook was likely trying to minimize the disruption to the user experience and thereby its user count with this shady design methodology. Just the fact that Wehner said Facebook has to “bring people through these consent flows” rather than describing them as giving user choice or anything about Facebook’s commitment to privacy shows that it views GDPR as merely a hurdle, not something users deserve for protection.

Read our full story on Facebook’s Q1 2018 earnings:

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