Juul halts US sales of its fruity-flavored vaping pods as regulators investigate it for marketing to minors — just hours after Philip Morris said its rival product targets adults

  • Juul Labs halted all US sales of its fruity-flavored e-cigarette pods on Thursday under mounting regulatory pressure to stop marketing them towards minors.
  • Hours earlier, rival Philip Morris took pains to distinguish IQOS – its alternative to conventional cigarettes – from Juul, and emphasize it’s targeted at adult smokers.
  • “When it comes to the youth access issue, this is where we focus on good conversion practices and a very stringent focus on adult smokers,” CEO Martin King said on the group’s earnings call.
  • Watch Philip Morris trade live on Markets Insider.

Juul Labs halted all US sales of its fruity e-cigarette flavors on Thursday under mounting regulatory pressure to stop marketing them towards minors. Hours earlier, rival Philip Morris took pains to say IQOS – its alternative to conventional cigarettes – is targeted at adult smokers.

Juul pulled its mango, creme, fruit, and cucumber refill pods from its online store, after suspending physical sales last year. It won’t resume selling them until the Food and Drug Administration completes a vaping review, the company said.

“We must reset the vapor category by earning the trust of society and working cooperatively with regulators, policymakers, and stakeholders to combat underage use while providing an alternative to adult smokers,” CEO K.C. Crosthwaite said in a statement.

Philip Morris CEO Martin King was eager to draw a distinction between Juul and the cigarette titan’s IQOS offering, which it launched in the US this month. He emphasized IQOS is a heated tobacco product rather than an e-cigarette, and regulators shouldn’t lump them into the same category. He also said three times that the product is targeted at adult smokers, not youths or non-smokers.

Read more: The precarious path of e-cig startup Juul: From Silicon Valley darling to $38 billion behemoth under criminal investigation

“When it comes to the youth access issue, this is where we focus on good conversion practices and a very stringent focus on adult smokers,” King said. “We have very big conversion practices to make sure that we’re focused on adult smokers.

He added: “We’re making sure that the people that convert to IQOS are former adult smokers.”

King is undoubtedly keen to avoid Juul’s challenges. Those came to a head in September, when the FDA issued a warning letter to Juul calling out its labeling and advertising – which included giving a presentation to teenagers at their school – and requested more information about its outreach and marketing practices as part of an investigation into vaping.

Juul appointed a new CEO within weeks: Altria’s former growth chief K.C. Crosthwaite. He launched a review of the company’s practices and policies and suspended its US broadcast, digital, and print advertising.

“We must reset the vapor category by earning the trust of society and working cooperatively with regulators, policymakers, and stakeholders to combat underage use while providing an alternative to adult smokers,” Crosthwaite said in the press release announcing Juul’s suspension of fruity flavors.

Now read: Philip Morris is betting on e-cigarettes and new flavors as it feels the heat from Juul and KT&G