As a sales associate at 1 South Vape Shop in Edison, who encounters plenty of people looking to kick their smoking habit, Maya Pesci claims nothing has worked better than pod-based nicotine products such as Juul.

But abuse of these products, by those who aren't even allowed to purchase them, is what's getting the most attention, she said.

"When kids get their hands on it, then that kind of ruins it for everybody else," Pesci said.

In response to a surge in teen vaping, at "epidemic" levels, and a perceived disconnect between the priorities of manufacturers and the priorities of health officials, the chief of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said his agency may need to pull pod-based nicotine products off the shelves, at least temporarily.

Outgoing FDA chief Scott Gottlieb, the Los Angeles Times reported, said the e-cigarette industry has been "overly dismissive" of the risk that kids could become addicted to nicotine through e-cigarette use. In the event of a ban, the article said, sales could resume if manufacturers show that their devices are not geared toward minors.

Juul has quickly grown to take up more than two-thirds of the e-cigarette market, thanks in part to its sleek design, ease of use, and ability to be recharged quickly. The USB drive-like gadget delivers nicotine to the user in vapor form.

Pesci said the shop where she's employed sells dozens of closed or open pod-based systems. The unique delivery method is getting more popular by the day, she said.

Nick Auditore, general manager at Just Vapor in Manalapan, said a ban on pod-based products wouldn't "tear the business down," but people trapped by cigarette addiction deserve an alternative.

"They want to make this the one thing that people can't get help with, which I find a little ridiculous," Auditore said.

Auditore said nobody should be looking to use Juul or similar devices for the long haul, only to eventually ween themselves off of combustible cigarettes.

According to the product website, one Juul cartridge delivers the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.

They are considered to be a less toxic option than traditional cigarettes, but health advocates claim they make youth more likely to use the real thing.

In New Jersey, it's illegal to sell vape pens to individuals under the age of 21 — a law right in line with traditional cigarettes. In some states, the legal age is 18

In an April 2018 Truth Initiative survey of more than 1,000 12- to 17-year-olds, 74 percent said they obtained a Juul unit at a store or retail outlet.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.