Juul is shutting down on social media, halting retail orders for flavored pods

The moves come as the FDA has been cracking down on e-cigarette makers over concerns about underage users.

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The FDA in September told makers of the top-selling e-cigarette brands they had to submit plans within 60 days to combat underage use. 

Eva Hambach / AFP/Getty Images

Juul Labs is quitting social media. 

The company said Tuesday that it's getting rid of its accounts on Facebook and Instagram, and will limit its Twitter presence to "non-promotional communications only." Its YouTube channel will only be used for sharing testimonials of former adult smokers who now use Juul, the company said, and only users ages 21 and up will be able to access the content.   

"By deterring social media promotion of the JUUL system by exiting our accounts, we can better prevent teens and non-smokers from ever becoming interested in the device," Juul CEO Kevin Burns said in a press release.

Juul said it's also asked Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat to prohibit content promoting e-cigarette use by those underage.  

Read more: How to quit Juuling, according to addiction experts

The US Food and Drug Administration has been cracking down on e-cigarette manufacturers. It's expressed concerns that Juul was luring in underage customers. In April, the FDA requested information from Juul about its marketing practices and its appeal to teens, and announced an effort to stop youth from using tobacco products, particularly e-cigarettes. In September, the agency told makers of the five top-selling e-cigarette brands -- Juul, Vuse, MarkTen, blu e-cigarettes and Logic -- that they had to submit plans within 60 days outlining how they'll tackle youth access and use of their products.

"Juul Labs and FDA share a common goal -- preventing youth from initiating on nicotine," Burns said in the release. "We want to be the off-ramp for adult smokers to switch from cigarettes, not an on-ramp for America's youth to initiate on nicotine."

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb tweeted about Juul's action plan on Tuesday, saying: "We're deeply concerned about the epidemic of youth use of e-cigs. 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."

As of Tuesday morning, Juul said it stopped accepting retail orders for flavored Juul pods like mango, fruit, creme and cucumber to the more than 90,000 retail locations that sell the product. These flavors will only be available on Juul's site, where additional age-verification measures will help keep underage people out, the company said. 

Customers on Juul's site have to provide their name, birthday, permanent address and the last four digits of their Social Security number. "This information is verified by a third party and cross-referenced with publicly available records to confirm the person is at least 21 years of age," according to the release. Customers who don't want to provide their Social Security number have to upload a government ID, which is then reviewed by someone on Juul's compliance team. 

To prevent people from buying in bulk and distributing products to minors, customers can't buy more than two devices and 15 Juul pod packages a month, and 10 devices a year. 

By the end of the year, Juul said its verification system will include two-factor authentication and a real-time photo requirement that matches a person's face with an uploaded ID. 

This year, Juul has worked with online marketplaces like eBay, Alibaba and Amazon to get rid of more than 23,000 third-party listings of Juul products and counterfeits, it said. 

The company also said it'll only start accepting orders again for mango, cucumber, fruit and creme pods from retail locations that can legally sell flavors, and that comply with a series of new guidelines, such as electronically scanning IDs for flavored pod purchases and limiting the quantity of pod sales to an individual. 

Juul said it's also "developing end-to-end traceability to track where a specific Juul device or Juul pod was purchased to focus enforcement efforts on bad actors." One of the most effective ways to do this is through a serial number, the company said. 

Burns said he hopes components of Juul's plan are implemented throughout the industry.

"If implemented across the category, these actions will have the greatest impact in restricting access and ultimately decreasing underage use, along with 21+ laws on all tobacco products," he said.

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