Home BUSINESS News Puff Bar Stays Top Teen Vaping Choice, as Juul Slips

Puff Bar Stays Top Teen Vaping Choice, as Juul Slips

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Puff Bar Stays Top Teen Vaping Choice, as Juul Slips

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About 14% of U.S. high-school students—an estimated 2.1 million of them—said they had used e-cigarettes at least once during the past 30 days. An estimated 2.55 million total students, including those in middle school, had vaped during the past 30 days, according to the survey.

The data are based on a national survey conducted between Jan. 18 and May 31.

Last year, about 11% of U.S. high-school students, or an estimated 1.7 million, said they had used e-cigarettes at least once during the past 30 days.

The annual school-based survey is conducted by the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since 1999, it has collected information on tobacco use from middle-school and high-school students. The CDC said changes in methodology over the past two years because of the Covid-19 pandemic made this year’s survey difficult to compare with prior years.

About 14.5% of middle- and high-school vapers said their usual brand was Puff Bar, which was followed in popularity by Reynolds American Inc.’s refillable Vuse brand with 12.5%, Hyde with 5.5% and Smok with 4%. Some 22% of young vapers reported that their usual brand was a brand other than the 13 listed on the survey. The number of young people who identified Juul as their usual brand was too small to be statistically reliable, the CDC said.

Puff Bar is selling its e-cigarettes in the U.S. unlawfully without FDA authorization, according to a warning letter sent by the agency to Puff Bar on Thursday. Puff Bar submitted an application earlier this year to the FDA for authorization of its products, and that application is still pending, according to the company.

Puff Bar Co-Chief Executive

Nick Minas

said Thursday that the company hasn’t manufactured enough product over the past two years for its brand to have had a substantial effect on youth use, and that preventing youth use was Puff Bar’s top priority. He said that young people in the survey had used the term “Puff Bar” to refer to other similar e-cigarette brands.

“This is a very unfortunate circumstance and only makes more room for nefarious brands and players to continue to profit and illegally sell,” Mr. Minas wrote in a text message to The Wall Street Journal, adding that he was disappointed by the FDA’s warning letter.

The FDA on Thursday also ordered e-cigarette manufacturer Magellan Technology Inc. to take its Hyde e-cigarettes off the market, rejecting an application Magellan had submitted to the agency. Magellan didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

About 14.5% of middle- and high-school vapers said Puff Bar was their usual brand.



Photo:

Marshall Ritzel/Associated Press

Juul Labs Inc. in 2018 attracted regulators’ attention when its sleek, flash-drive-shaped vaporizers became a teen status symbol. For three years, it was the most commonly used e-cigarette brand among U.S. high-schoolers. Under pressure from regulators and facing investigations into its marketing practices, Juul halted most of its U.S. advertising, shut down its Facebook and Instagram accounts and stopped selling most of its flavors in the U.S.

Thousands of lawsuits have been filed against Juul over the past several years, alleging that the company marketed its e-cigarettes to children. Since last year, Juul has agreed to pay more than $525 million in settlements with dozens of states that investigated or brought lawsuits against the company. Juul has said it never marketed to underage users and has been trying to regain the public’s trust.

The fact that Juul no longer ranks among the brands used most by young people demonstrates the company’s ability to help adult cigarette smokers switch to less-harmful products “while using data-driven measures to keep our products away from underage users,” Juul said in a written statement on Thursday.

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Juul is now in a dispute with the FDA over whether it can keep its e-cigarettes on the U.S. market. The company is expected as soon as this week to start discussions with lenders for financing that would carry the company through a potential chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.

In 2019, the federal minimum age to purchase products rose to 21 from 18. Underage vaping in the U.S. has since declined, but regulators have continued to try to curb youth use of e-cigarettes. The FDA in 2020 restricted flavors of refillable e-cigarettes such as Juul and Vuse. The flavor restrictions didn’t apply to disposable e-cigarettes, whose sales soared after the policy went into effect.

In the latest survey, more than half of young e-cigarette users said they used disposable devices such as Puff Bar.

Puff Bar remained on the market despite an order in 2020 by the FDA for the company to halt its U.S. sales. Puff Bar reformulated its ingredients last year to use nicotine that wasn’t derived from tobacco, in an attempt to sidestep the agency’s jurisdiction.

A government spending bill passed in March of this year gave the FDA authority over Puff Bar and other e-cigarettes made with synthetic nicotine, closing the loophole that had allowed Puff Bar to stay on the market. The agency has sent hundreds of warning letters to manufacturers and retailers selling synthetic-nicotine e-cigarettes that aren’t authorized for sale in the U.S.

Under the new law, synthetic nicotine products as of July 13 can no longer be sold legally in the U.S. without FDA authorization.

Write to Jennifer Maloney at jennifer.maloney@wsj.com

Cigarettes and Vaping Under Scrutiny

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