Warning: This product contains nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive chemical.
In October, the FDA paid the headquarters of Juul a surprise visit. They seized thousands of papers suspecting that Juul was targeting minors to use their products. According to the FDA, there has been a sharp increase in young smokers, between last year and this year; according to CNN, over 2 million middle and high school students are currently smoking vape e-cigs.
A lot of the concern lies in the fact that many young users of the e-cigs were unaware that Juul e-cigs contain nicotine. Besides the highly addictive quality, studies have shown in the past, that nicotine alone can be detrimental to the brain development of of minors. There is still no way to know how else the e-cigs could affect the rest of the teens’ growth and development; they’re too new. Juul argues, however, that their target market has always been adults. They insist that current adult smokers are their main concern, and they have no intention or desire to sell to minors. The rapid growth of teen users, in addition to the high concentration of nicotine in the vape products are what triggered the FDA’s investigation.
In addition to Juul, the FDA also went after other e-cig companies to gather information as well; Vuse, MarkTen, Blu and Logic were also visited by the FDA with documents pulled from their headquarters. They too were suspected to targeting minors in their marketing campaigns. Critics of the e-cig companies are not concerned about adults that smoke and make the switch, they suspect that these companies were intentionally targeting younger vapers to become addicted at a young age so that they can become vapers long-term; get them young, get a customer for life.
Middle school and high school officials have started monitoring and actively working to keep kids from vaping in schools. The Juul pods can easily be mistaken for a USB drive. It’s a tiny, sleek design that can easily fit (and hide) in the palm of anyone’s hand. It even has a USB port so kids can charge it while they’re in class. Usually, when a kid takes a “hit” in school, they wait for the teacher to turn around, they quickly inhale, and blow the smoke out in either their sweaters or backpacks. Many schools have installed sensors throughout the schools. They have been placed in the hallways, bathrooms, and even in lockers to detect the vape smoke. When someone takes a hit, school officials are alerted when someone is vaping. As mentioned in an NBC News report, some schools have even gone so far as to ban USB ports because they can easily be mistaken for Juuls.
Since the crackdown earlier this year, other companies such as Myle have decided to discontinue their products for fear that they will be next on the FDA’s list. In November 2018, Ariel Gorelik, CEO of Myle wrote a letter for their website stating that they will discontinue their products until further notice, “Myle Vape has chosen this path because we would like to be part of an active solution to protect our country’s most important asset – our youth – and also to provide current smokers with new alternatives to combustible cigarettes that have been reviewed by the United States Food and Drug Administration.”
Rumors have been swirling around the internet that mega-tobacco companies such as Philip Morris and Altria have been sniffing around to get involved in the e-cig market, and this new investigation has encouraged them to become more aggressive in infiltrating.
In an effort to curb the appeal to minors, Juul has discontinued their fruity flavored pods, and changed the names of their other flavors. The only flavors that will be available in corner stores have been limited to tobacco, mint, and menthol. They are actively taking steps to bolster age verification on their websites, and looking to keep minors out of their market.
Who knows what will be of the e-cig market when the dust settles. Where will Juul and other e-cig companies be in the next few years? What will happen to the current teens that are already hooked? Only time will tell...