JUUL Labs are realizing their target audience — adults — isn’t their main consumer base. As a result, they’re scrambling to discourage minors from using the nicotine vapor products with a new youth prevention plan. The electronic cigarette, shaped like a USB flash drive, has been skyrocketing in popularity for teens.
JUUL e-cigarette sales increased more than 600% last year, selling over three million devices monthly. According to the Truth Initiative, the popularity of JUUL among youth has helped the product account for 73 percent of e-cigarette sales in the U.S., as of September 2018.
The company founders are Adam Bowen and James Monsees, former smokers. Their goal was to eliminate cigarette consumption by converting adult smokers to the nicotine vapor device. Their team of scientists, product designers and engineers believe vaping can have a positive impact on pre-existing smokers. They specify nicotine hasn’t been shown to cause cancer, but can create dependency — it’s the tar in cigarettes that’s most harmful to lungs.
But JUUL found unexpected popularity beyond adult smokers, catching the interest of youth who’d never smoked before. Teens are attracted to the flavor offerings like mango, fruit, creme
A Truth Initiative study published in Tobacco Control found that 15-17-year-olds are over 16 times more likely to be JUUL users than adults aged 25-34. The study also found youth aren’t just experimenting with the device, they’re using it regularly.
Benjamin Martin, 17, graduated high school last month. He tells Parentology he was introduced to the JUUL by an older friend about two years ago, and now uses it “all day, every day.” He goes through about “a pod a day,” which contains the same amount of nicotine as a full pack of cigarettes. Martin says when you have a tolerance for it, “it feels like nothing.”
Before he built up a tolerance, Martin would get “a little lightheaded — just enough to be pleasurable… but sometimes if [he] hit it too much [he’d] feel nauseous and woozy.” When he doesn’t have it, he “feels an urge that’s hard to explain — but the urge is always there.” Martin had never smoked cigarettes before getting a JUUL.
Sammy Haweileh, 21, is a junior at Cal State Fullerton. He tells Parentology he first tried a JUUL at a music festival three years
JUUL’s Youth Prevention Plan
Because of what’s becoming a resurgence of the youth smoking epidemic, JUUL is launching a “comprehensive action plan” to combat teen usage in the US. The plan includes: restricting the distribution of flavors that appeal to minors, strengthening the website’s controls to restrict underage purchases, ramping up their “secret shopper program” to ensure retailer compliance, and deleting all of JUUL’s social media accounts.
They’re even implementing facial-recognition technology on the website, and a Bluetooth-connected product tracking system that can trace individual devices back through the “distribution channel.” This means if a device is confiscated from an underage user, JUUL will be able to identify the retailer that sold the product and revoke their sales license.
JUUL Labs firmly attests the company is committed solely to “improving the lives of the world’s one billion adult smokers” by eliminating cigarettes. Their website states the creators “don’t want anyone who doesn’t smoke” to use the device, and “certainly don’t want youth using the product.”
Despite their continued protests that JUUL is “not appropriate for youth,” “targeted to existing adult smokers,” and merely “a switching product,” statistics show the situation may now be beyond JUUL’s control. Nicotine is back for minors, in a big way. It’s odorless,
It’s hard to say whether or not this trend will continue, or how it can be stopped. But parents should make it clear to their teens and preteens that JUUL’s health effects have yet to be fully determined. Yes, nicotine is addictive, but the microscopic particles in e-cigarettes have been linked to heart attacks, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease.
Additionally, JUUL’s patented nicotine formula uses benzoic acid, which can cause coughs, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting with consistent exposure. And those are just the short-term effects. JUUL is so new on the market it’s hard to say just how severe its effects are on developing brains and bodies.
With JUUL’s youth prevention plan, the company’s definitely moving in the right direction — but will it be enough to reverse this next-generation youth smoking epidemic? We’ll have to wait and see.