Pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson has announced that the company will cease sales of talc-based Baby Powder in the United States and Canada, calling it a “commercial decision” to wind down sales in those markets. Johnson & Johnson’s cornstarch based Baby Powder will continue to be sold in North America, which the company claims accounts for three-quarters of all the sales of its iconic cosmetic product, but that the talc-based version will continue to be distributed to overseas markets. While cornstarch-based sales dominate North American sales, overseas consumers overwhelmingly purchase the talc-based formula.
According to the company’s chairman of its North America consumer branch, Johnson & Johnson will continue to sell its existing inventory through retailers until the product runs out. Although Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder accounts for less than 1% of the company’s overall sales, which have seen sharp declines over the past few years, the product is one of the company’s flagship items and has been used by millions of individuals for many decades.
While Johnson & Johnson may publicly state that its move to discontinue sales of talc-based Baby Powder in North America may be a market driven decision, the truth may actually be that the company is finally feeling the pressure of the 20,000 talcum powder asbestos cancer lawsuits it is facing. Those claims allege that Johnson & Johnson acted negligently when it failed to provide warnings to consumers about the risks of using its talc-based cosmetics products, and that the company knew for decades about the risk of asbestos contamination in products like Baby Powder and Shower to Shower.