Need your mango Juul fix? Good luck finding a store that has it.
Flavored Juul pods are disappearing from vape store shelves across the country, and it's unclear when they'll return. Per Juul’s action plan to deter teen use, retailers will have to adopt a system that electronically scans government-issued IDs, but everyone's waiting on the final word from the FDA before they purchase a scanner.
In November, Juul was facing a regulatory smackdown as the FDA feared the company's flavored nicotine-delivery pods were getting teens addicted just as youth smoking rates were plummeting. To preempt that, in mid-November Juul released its “action plan” describing the steps it’d take to keep kids from using its product. The most significant was suspending sales of its flavored nicotine pods to retailers. And in the two months since, the company told VICE News, it hasn’t sold a single flavored pod to a retail store. One of the largest vape retail store in America, Avail Vapor, told VICE News its warehouse recently ran out of flavored pods.
Having some of your best-selling products pulled off shelves may seem like a big setback. But that didn’t stop Altria, the multibillion-dollar tobacco conglomerate behind Marlboro, from paying $12.8 billion last month to buy 35% of Juul. Altria and Juul are a perfect match to dominate the e-cig world, as Altria’s CEO described in an investors call the day the deal was announced.
“Let’s imagine the combination of Juul’s leading market position, brand equity and deep innovation pipeline, with [Altria’s] strong retail presence, our ability to connect with adult smokers ..., and our deep regulatory affairs expertise,” Altria CEO Howard A. Willard III said.
This segment originally aired January 22, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.