Days After Juul’s China Launch, Its Vape Pens Have Disappeared From the Web

September 18, 2019, 8:54 AM UTC

Online sales of products from e-cigarette company Juul Labs, Inc. have halted in China just days after the company launched there.

Juul vape pens and refill pods went on sale in the company’s official stores on Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s Tmall.com and JD.com Inc.’s eponymous website, China’s largest e-commerce sites, last week. The products disappeared by the end of the week. Juul did not give an explanation for the delisting or say when the products would return.

“While Juul products are not currently available on e-commerce Web sites in China, we look forward to continued dialogue with stakeholders so that we can make our products available again,” a company spokesperson said.

Juul is the bestselling e-cigarette in the U.S. and has a significant lobbying presence in Washington D.C. But it is facing a potential ban in the U.S. along with other e-cigarette brands after several vaping-related deaths, the most recent on Monday.

The company has faced criticism for marketing to teenagers and spurring a teen vaping “epidemic,” and its CEO has apologized to parents. A vaping policy recently proposed by the Trump administration would ban flavored fruit, mint, and menthol vaping products—the exact merchandise that provides Juul with 80% of its sales. The policy would not be as damaging to the startup as the Food and Drug Administration’s 2018 threat to pull all vaping products from the market to fight the “epidemic” of use by minors.

In the face of increased domestic scrutiny, Juul is expanding into international markets, and China, home to 315 million smokers—about as many as the entire U.S. population—could be a critical market if its products are outlawed in the U.S., though it would have to compete with numerous Chinese vape brands like Snow+ and Relx.

China’s smoking laws are lax compared to the U.S. and other countries. Restrictions on smoking in public places in China are uncommon and loosely enforced, and cigarette packets are bereft of the graphic images designed to discourage smokers as seen in other Asian countries like South Korea, Malaysia, and Thailand.

Before its products were taken off Tmall and JD.com, a vape pen and two flavor pods were selling for $42. On its own website, a “Juul Starter Kit” with one pen and four pods is priced at $49.99 but is currently selling at $19.99.

Searches for Juul on Tmall.com and JD.com show charging devices and Juul pen cases for sale from third-party sellers, but nothing from the brand’s official store.

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