After receiving public backlash and pressure from the Food and Drug Administration, Juul Labs announced on Tuesday that it will no longer sell most of their flavored e-cigarette pods — including mango, cucumber, fruit and creme brulee — in retail stores across the country. The company also announced that it would end their social media promotions.
Since their release in 2015, Juuls have rapidly become popular, accounting for over 70 percent of the U.S. e-cigarette market share. While Juul Labs’ mission is to “improve the lives of the world’s one billion adult smokers, with the ultimate goal of eliminating cigarettes,” as stated on their website, the allure of Juuls and their variety of flavors meant that they rapidly gained popularity with high school and middle school students across the country. According to two local tobacco store employees interviewed by the News, the device has high demand in New Haven among a variety of people, youth included.
According to 2017 data collected by the National Youth Tobacco Survey, over 1.7 million high school students and 390,000 middle school students currently use e-cigarettes. The survey also found that over 1.3 million youth smoke cigarettes, which would mean that at least 750,000 current e-cigarette users do not smoke cigarettes.
The FDA announced on Thursday that they will still allow stores to sell flavored e-cigarette products, but only in restricted areas that are inaccessible to teenagers, and said they would elaborate on what that means at a later date.
Although the FDA plan allows for most flavored e-cigarettes to be sold at adult-only tobacco and vape stores, Juul Labs announced on Tuesday that it will stop selling their flavored pods — with the exception of mint, tobacco and menthol — at 90,000 retail stores across the country. The other flavors will be sold only on the company’s website for now, according to chief executive of Juul Labs Kevin Burns’ blog post.
Dozens of smoke shops and vape stores are located in New Haven, and the Juul is a popular product amongst New Haven residents and Yale students. Because of the device’s popularity amongst people between 18 and 21 years old, the new policies could impact local businesses.
Julia Johnson, an employee at Artisan Vapor Company on Church Street, agreed that the Juul’s ban will be effective in stopping youth from gaining access to their products, but she doesn’t think that it will make a difference in youth’s e-cigarette use because there are so many other competitors to the Juul.
“I don’t understand why it’s the Juul that’s so popular and not other companies that are so popular,” she told the News. “There are so many competitors out there that, in my opinion, offer much better products.”
Johnson said that she is not worried about Juul’s policy change affecting their sales, because there are so many competitors to the Juul that are similarly sleek and convenient, such as the Phix, the Milo, the Sprite and the Aspire Breeze. Johnson added that most of these competitors offer a much larger variety of cartridge flavors, including lemon, grape menthol, juicy watermelon menthol, blue raspberry lemonade, strawberry Starburst and peach rings. Juul competitors will be ready to take advantage of the red-hot market that Juul leaves vacant for them, according to Johnson.
While the Juul Lab’s policy change aims to prevent youth from using nicotine any further, Johnson worries that the move comes too late because many children, teenagers and young adults are already addicted.
“I’ve sold devices to 18-year-old kids who have said that they’ve never smoked a cigarette in their lives,” she told the News. “It’s really unfortunate because the product was developed to help heavy smokers who were looking to quit, and now it’s evolved into a class of individuals who have never smoked before but just decided to try it one day because it was trendy.”
While the FDA’s plan may be effective in reducing e-cigarettes among youth, there is concern among some health officials and current and former smokers that the agency’s flavored e-cigarette ban has negative implication on people who need it most: adult smokers looking to quit.
According to Joe Gitchell, a health consultant who has worked in the field of tobacco and nicotine policy for over 20 years, the new plan announced from Juul should have its intended effect of reducing nicotine access to youth — but there are other consequences to adult smokers that are being overlooked, despite the fact that they are at the highest risk of adverse health effects.
Jacob Abdallah ’21 told the News that Juul Lab’s decision to not sell most of its flavored pods is “a great start in tackling a really serious epidemic.”
“I’m sure that [Juul Labs] never intended for their product to become an easy way for kids and non-smokers to get addicted to nicotine, but for [Juul] to sit back and just let this trend continue would almost be criminal,” Abdallah said.
Formerly owned by PAX Labs, Juul spun out into an independent company, JUUL Labs, in 2017.
Caroline Moore | firstname.lastname@example.org