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  • After the Food and Drug Administration banned Juul’s vaping devices and flavored pods, the company asked a federal court to extend a hold on the ban.
  • The FDA’s ban on Juul products is part of the agency’s efforts to regulate the multibillion-dollar vaping industry.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says vapor from e-cigs can contain potentially harmful substances such as nicotine, lead and other heavy metals.

Vaping company Juul Labs, Inc., asked a federal court on June 28 to extend a temporary stay on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) ban of its e-cigarettes and flavored pods.

The FDA said the week before that the company’s application for market approval provided “insufficient and conflicting data” about the risks of its product, including whether “potentially harmful chemicals” could leach from the e-liquid pods.

As a result, the FDA ordered the San Francisco-based company to stop selling its vaping device and tobacco- and menthol-flavored pods.

Dr. Nino Paichadze, an assistant research professor in the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, said the agency’s move is an important step for public health.

“Given the harms that e-cigarettes cause among youth and adolescents, and the potential to lead to a lot of health problems during adulthood, this is significant,” she said.

The ban, though, was short-lived.

A federal appeals court for the District of Columbia Circuit temporarily blocked the FDA’s ban on June 24 after Juul filed an emergency motion seeking a reprieve while it appealed the agency’s decision.

The following Tuesday, Juul filed a motion with the same court seeking to extend the stay.

In its filing, the company said the FDA had overlooked 6,000 pages of data about the aerosols created when the liquid in the pods is heated by the vaping device, reports CNBC.

The FDA’s ban on Juul products is part of the agency’s efforts to regulate the multibillion-dollar vaping industry based on scientific evidence — the same way it regulates the pharmaceutical and medical device industries.

For a company to keep its vaping products on the market, it has to show that the benefits to the public outweigh the risks.

Possible benefits of e-cigarettes include helping cigarette smokers quit using tobacco products entirely or just getting them to switch to vaping, which can reduce their health risks.

The vapor generated by e-cigarettes contains fewer toxic chemicals than the mix of more than 7,000 chemicals in smoke from regular cigarettes. But that doesn’t mean e-cigarette vapor is entirely harmless.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this vapor can contain potentially harmful substances such as nicotine, lead and other heavy metals, organic compounds and chemicals that cause cancer.

Researchers are also concerned that the particles in e-cigarette vapor may cause inflammation and damage to the lungs.

Another potential risk of e-cigarettes is that children and adolescents will get hooked on them.

“Not only are these products harmful immediately to the health of the individual consuming them,” said Dr. Adnan Hyder, a professor of global health in the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, “but they also increase the probability of people becoming addicted to substances like tobacco and nicotine, particularly youth and adolescents.”

In addition, some research suggests that e-cigarette use among adolescents may increase the risk that they take up cigarette smoking as adults.

” So it’s not just about today’s health, it’s about the future of public health, as well,” said Hyder.

Experts say vaping companies have targeted youth through kid-friendly marketing and vape flavors such as fruit and dessert.

“When you have companies that make e-cigarette flavors such as cotton candy and gummy bear, there is no other motive there except to get young children hooked on these products,” said Hyder.

In response to these concerns, in 2020 the FDA banned the sale of flavored cartridge-based e-cigarettes — other than menthol and tobacco flavor.

However, before then, Juul used candy and fruit flavors, along with its high-nicotine e-liquid and sleek design, to gain a large share of the U.S. vaping market — including youth.

In a study published online on May 30 in the journal Pediatrics, University of California San Diego researchers found that in 2017 there was a 40 percent surge in e-cigarette sales in the United States, driven by Juul’s products.

As a result, many of the new users were youth — 64.6 percent of the increase in 2017 was among 14- to 17-year-olds, researchers found.

They also estimated that about 600,000 people under age 21 were using Juul products daily in 2019, 2.5 times the rate for 25- to 34-year-olds.

“There was very little evidence that smokers were using Juul to try and quit, and there was a ton of evidence of 14-to 17-year-olds getting addicted,” said study author John Pierce, PhD, a distinguished emeritus professor at the UC San Diego Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science.

Since the FDA started reviewing premarket applications for e-cigarettes, the agency has allowed two other companies — R.J. Reynolds and Logic — to market their e-cigarettes in the United States.

While this enables these companies to sell their products, the agency emphasized that this “does not mean these products are safe.”

“[E-cigarette companies] haven’t proven that their products are harmless,” said Pierce. “In fact, the more data we get on these products, the more worried we are about the future health consequences.”

He points to studies from other UCSD researchers which found that e-cigarettes may cause inflammation and damage in the lungs, with flavored e-cigarettes also implicated in this health risk.

“All the evidence we’re seeing is that we’re going to have a lot of disease down the road,” said Pierce. “Remember, it took 20 years or more to identify that smoking caused lung cancer.”

Although the FDA has allowed two e-cigarette companies to sell their products in the United States, this could change if new data shows vaping is more harmful than scientists currently think.

Tobacco control experts say this kind of scientific evidence is needed not only to show the risks of vaping but also to provide the public with accurate information about those risks.

“What is essential is that we have very good research evidence coming from the public health community and getting to the public,” said Paichadze, “versus the so-called research that the tobacco industry is funding themselves in order to influence consumers or [regulatory] decision-making.”