eBay, FDA Combat Online Juul Sales. But Did it Work?

A research article in the journal Tobacco Control claims that almost all listings for Juul products on eBay are gone. The FDA demanded the listings removed as part of the agency’s new standards for ENDS sales.

Back in April, the FDA announced it was cracking down on the sale of Juul e-cigarettes to minors. As part of their Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan, commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the agency issued 40 warning letters to retailers for illegal sale of Juul products to minors.

Online Resale Called Out

One of the major channels through which youth were able to purchase Juul devices and pods was the e-commerce/resale site, eBay. eBay lists millions of different consumer items for sale and resale by vendors and independent parties. In addition to their warning letters, the FDA said it was in contact with eBay to have all Juul listings stricken from the site.

Initial contact to have Juul listings removed began in March. Gottlieb commended eBay for their “swift action to remove the listings and voluntarily implement new measures to prevent new listings from being posted to the web retailer’s site,” in the April statement. In addition to taking down existing product listings, the site modified its terms of service for sellers, disallowing Juul sales specifically.

eBay has always restricted sales of tobacco products on their site in their terms of service. Under US Law, the site would have to undergo consideration change and maintain detailed reporting in order to allow sale of tobacco products. After contact with the FDA, the site’s administrators took action to moderate and remove illegal or otherwise restricted product listings.


Not Everyone In Compliance

According to Linnea Laestadius and Yang Wang, however, not all vendors removed their product listings from the site. Of the nearly 200 items the researchers found in their initial search in March, 3.4% still existed on eBay after the FDA’s new enforcement policy took effect. Before the FDA stepped in, Juul product prices on eBay were, on average, higher than prices on Juul’s online store. This process of buying and reselling items at a premium, especially during a shortage or heavy periods of regulatory change, is called ‘scalping.’

Laestadius and Wang searched and coded listings for a few variables, including ‘youth access.’ “[L]anguage about age restrictions was rare,” the authors found. They discovered almost all the listings removed, with exception of that 3%, after April’s e-cigarette crackdown. However, Laestadius and Wang also found that about 15% of vendors sold other vapes or pods.


Laestadius L, Wang Y. Youth access to JUUL online: eBay sales of JUUL prior to and following FDA action. Tobacco Control Published Online First: 05 September 2018. doi: https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/early/2018/09/15/tobaccocontrol-2018-054499

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