Juul Labs, the bestselling e-cigarette brand in the U.S., announced Thursday that it will voluntarily stop selling its popular mint-flavored e-cigarette pods. The announcement is Juul’s latest attempt to ward off public outcry that blames the company for the uptick in e-cigarette use among teens.
The announcement came just days after a new government report showed that more teens than ever were using e-cigarettes. An estimated 28% of high school students and 11% of middle school students said they’d used e-cigarettes within the past month, according to a report based on a national survey conducted earlier this year — despite federal law that prohibits sales to those under 18.
That amounts to 5.3 million young users — a significant rise from last year’s 3.6 million.
The government report, which surveyed almost 20,000 young people, also found that Juul is the preferred brand for 60% of high school users. Most of them used flavored e-cigarettes — and among those who did, nearly 60% favored mint or menthol.
“In light of the studies released this week relating to the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey and Monitoring the Future survey, JUUL Labs’ CEO K.C. Crosthwaite announced that the company will immediately stop accepting orders from our retail partners for our Mint JUULpods in the U.S. and cease the sale of Mint JUULpods in the U.S. through our ecommerce site,” the company said in a Thursday statement.
“These results are unacceptable and that is why we must reset the vapor category in the U.S. and earn the trust of society,” Crothwaite said in the statement.
This isn’t the first time Juul has stopped selling flavored pods. On October 17, the company announced that it would stop selling its fruit and dessert-flavored pods, putting an end to the mango, crème, fruit and cucumber flavors.
The company will now only sell Virginia Tobacco, Classic Tobacco, and Menthol-flavored pods, the statement said. Juul also pledged in the statement to “not sell any others under any name unless they are first authorized by the FDA.”
The company was quickly criticized for not pulling the menthol flavor, too.
“If they really wanted to keep the kids away they would also get rid of menthol,” Meredith Berkman, of Parents Against Vaping E-Cigarettes, told The Associated Press. “We hope the administration will understand that too — they should be taking menthol off the market.”
Mint and menthol have often been treated interchangeably by vaping researchers.
But a new study released Monday suggests menthol doesn’t have the same appeal as mint. The study found that mint was the most popular flavor among Juul users in 10th and 12th grades and the second-most popular among middle-schoolers. In contrast, less than 6% of teenagers across all grades preferred menthol. The study by University of Southern California researchers was based on a survey that included 1,800 Juul users.