Juul halts store sales of some flavored e-cigarettes

Juul will resume sales only to retailers that scan IDs and take other steps to verify that a buyer is 21 or older

NEW YORK — The nation’s leading e-cigarette maker is halting store sales of some flavors to deter use by kids.

The move by Juul Labs Inc. comes ahead of an expected U.S. government crackdown on underage sales of flavored e-cigarettes.

Juul said it stopped filling store orders Tuesday for mango, fruit, creme and cucumber pods and will resume sales only to retailers that scan IDs and take other steps to verify that a buyer is at least 21. It said it will continue to sell menthol at stores, and sell all flavors through its website.

The company also said it would close its Facebook and Instagram social media accounts, and pledged other steps to make it clear that it doesn’t want kids using its e-cigarettes.

Its products are meant to help adult smokers quit regular cigarettes, CEO Kevin Burns said in a statement.

“We don’t want anyone who doesn’t smoke, or already uses nicotine, to use Juul products,” Burns said. “We certainly don’t want youth using the product. It is bad for public health and it is bad for our mission.”

Some vaping products come in flavors with names like bubble gum and cotton candy, leading to criticism that the industry is marketing e-cigarettes to children.

Juul e-cigarettes first went on sale in 2015. The devices look like computer flash drives, can be recharged in computer USB ports and have prefilled cartridges containing nicotine. A starter kit with the device, charger and pods costs about $50 on the company’s website.

Last year, Juul became the top-selling U.S. brand of e-cigarette. That’s due at least partly to aggressive marketing through Instagram and other social media that many kids see, some researchers say.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration bans sales of e-cigarettes and tobacco products to those under 18. Some states restrict sales to 21 and older.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb responded to Juul’s announcement via Twitter.

“We’re deeply concerned about the epidemic of youth use of e-cigs,” he said. “Voluntary action is no substitute for regulatory steps #FDA will soon take. But we want to recognize actions by JUUL today and urge all manufacturers to immediately implement steps to start reversing these trends.”

Last week, an FDA official said the agency plans to bar stores and gas stations from selling most flavored e-cigarettes, but not menthol. It also plans to require online retailers to verify ages, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity, explaining that the details were not final.