Marlboro Maker Altria Pulls Flavored E-Cigarettes from Shelves
Altria Group, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes and e-cigarettes, announced October 25 that it would pull its pod-based e-cigarettes from store shelves, at least for now. The move is in response to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) growing concerns over teen e-cigarette use and they’re possible health implications. 
The tobacco manufacturer said it would not put the e-cigarette products back on the market until they receive federal clearance or “the youth issue is otherwise addressed.”
Altria also said, for the first time, that it would back federal legislation to increase the legal age to purchase any tobacco or vaping product to 21. 
Altria makes MarkTen Elite and MarkTen pod-based products containing flavored liquids which are heated and turned into vapor before being inhaled. Such products have become increasingly-popular with young people because of their portability, ease of use, and because of the many flavors available for sale.
At the moment, the e-cig products don’t require FDA approval because they were introduced to the market prior to August 2016.
Altria’s decision to placate federal officials may not leave much of a dent on the e-cigarette market. The company holds just about 9% of the e-cig market. Juul Labs, which vaping products resemble USB drives, controls a whopping 62% of the market and have become a favorite among teenagers.
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said earlier in 2018 that there is an “epidemic” of underage e-cigarette use. In September, Gottlieb warned 5 e-cig companies, including Juul, that they had 2 months to figure out how they’ll prove to the FDA that they’ve taken steps to prevent the sale of vaping products to young people. Companies that fail to comply could be required to change their sales and marketing practices, stop distributing products to retailers who sell to kids, and remove their products from the market.
The FDA also sprung a surprise visit on Juul’s headquarters in San Francisco, walking away with boxes of documents related to the company’s marketing strategy.
In a letter to the agency, Howard A. Willard III, chairman and CEO of Altria Group, said the epidemic levels of teen vaping alarmed him, though he did not implicate his company in helping to cause the epidemic. 
“Although we do not believe we have a current issue with youth access to or use of our pod-based products, we don’t want to risk contributing to the issue.”
He also maintained that e-cigarettes remain an important smoking cessation method.
“The current situation with youth use of e-vapor products, left unchecked, has the potential to undermine that opportunity.”
Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.