Market leading e-cigarette company Juul is halting sales of its popular mint flavor, following the release of two damaging studies this week that showed the company's role in a dramatic spike in teen use, Juul announced Thursday.
Studies published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that more than half of teens who vaped used Juul and mint was the most popular flavor among high school kids. Juul said it made the decision to pull mint in light of the results.
"These results are unacceptable and that is why we must reset the vapor category in the U.S. and earn the trust of society by working cooperatively with regulators, Attorneys General, public health officials, and other stakeholders to combat underage use. We will support the upcoming FDA flavor policy" and regulatory process to get its nicotine pods cleared for sale in the U.S., Juul CEO K.C. Crosthwaite said in a statement.
Juul will now sell just three flavors in the U.S.: menthol, Virginia tobacco and classic tobacco. The company last month suspended sales of its other sweet flavors — mango, creme, fruit and cucumber — nearly a year after pulling them from convenience stores, vape shops and other retailers amid pressure from the Food and Drug Administration.
Juul's decision to stop selling mint marks a major departure for the company, which had ardently defended its flavors in the past. The company has said mango and mint help former adult smokers quit cigarettes. That posture is changing as public, political and regulatory pressure mounts on Juul and the e-cigarette industry as a whole.
The Trump administration is expected to announce a temporary ban on flavored e-cigarettes, including mint, as soon as this week. Local and state governments are pursuing similar policies, while some retailers are discontinuing sales of e-cigarettes altogether.
For Juul, discontinuing mint could result in a huge loss of revenue. Mint accounts for about 70% of Juul's U.S. sales, according to a person familiar with the company's finances who asked not to be named because the information is private.
It's unclear whether teens will quit vaping or whether they will migrate to other flavors or brands. When Juul pulled its other sweet flavors from stores last year, sales of mint spiked. The company knew this would happen, a former executive alleged in a lawsuit filed last month.
Juul could eventually reintroduce the flavors if reviewed and approved by the FDA. The company has not made any final decisions on which flavors it will send to the FDA for review, a Juul spokesman said. All e-cigarette companies are required to submit applications to the FDA for a formal review by May to keep their nicotine pods and other products on the market.
Since joining Juul in September, Crosthwaite has taken a number of steps to repair the company's image. Juul is widely blamed for fueling a surge in teen vaping, despite its stated mission to transform the lives of the world's 1 billion smokers.
Juul suspended all product advertising in the U.S. Crosthwaite also shuffled the company's structure and cut 500 jobs. Crosthwaite was a longtime employee at Juul's largest investor, tobacco giant Altria.