Is Juul’s Strategy To Combat Underage Use Good For the Industry?

You might have noticed lately that the vape company, Juul, has been under a massive attack from just about every media organization in the U.S., big or small. Small local news stations are picking up the stories and big publishers like NYTimes are joining in too.

The main concern that all of these publications are reporting is that “juuling” is becoming an epidemic among teens. They’re making claims that vaping is exposing teens to harmful chemicals like formaldehyde and that vaping can eventually lead teens to addiction and into moving towards smoking. There is already plenty of research (see here, and here, and here, and here) showing that both of those claims aren’t true, but it’s not stopping journalists from saying it.

The negative coverage is so massive and constant that Juul had to release a statement. On April 26th, Kevin Burns, the CEO of Juul sent out an email explaining the company’s stance on teen use of their products.

Burn’s first sentence reaffirms their mission of eliminating cigarette smoking by giving the billion smokers around the world an alternative to smoking with the Juul. Their goal is to save one smoker at a time.

He points out that their system uses temperature regulation to heat the e-juice without resulting in the harm and combustion of normal smoking. And while they didn’t say this in their statement, I think it’s important to point out that their temperature regulation feature prevents burning the wicks, which is what debunked studies have claimed to result in formaldehyde. So even if formaldehyde was a problem, the temp-control features of the Juul minimize it drastically, if not making it a non-issue entirely.

The statement goes on to say that both co-founders are former smokers who wanted to disrupt the global tobacco market and make a meaningful impact on public health.

Burns makes it clear that the Juul has become popular among teens, there’s no denying it, but that they do not want teens or non-smokers using their products. It’s designed with adult smokers in mind. And again, he didn’t mention this in the statement but look at the advertising of the Juul. They don’t target kids at all in their advertising. They don’t use cartoon characters, flashy colors, or anything like that. They use classy packaging.

But to get to the main message of their statement, they have now officially announced a strategy to combat the underage use of the Juul. They will be investing $30 million dollars over the next three years to support independent research, providing education to parents and youth on tobacco, and supporting state and federal efforts to raise the age to buy tobacco to 21. They are also working with Tom Miller, the Iowa Attorney General, to develop this strategy.

Is This a Good Thing?

For Juul as a company, sure it’s a good thing. For vaping as an industry? Not really.

This definitely gives Juul a lot of media attention. It probably also appeases a lot of groups who are against the whole “epidemic” of teens using Juuls. It’s more reputation management than it is helping the industry.

I don’t agree with a couple things he said.

I think they SHOULD support the use of non-smokers using the Juul. To be fair, I know why they can’t say that, given the current climate of vaping. But I think it’s good for non-smokers to have access to vaping products because these people might actually be potential smokers. We should give people access to less-harmful products first!

I also don’t agree with Juul’s position on raising the age to purchase tobacco products (which includes vape products) to 21. Again, I understand that they’re trying to do something good here, but we all know that it’s easy to get cigarettes when you’re underage. But it’s much harder to get a vaporizer and e-juice when you’re underage. I worry that more youth would smoke cigarettes because it’ll be too hard to get access to a vape. Here’s a study from Weill Cornell Medicine that has shown this to be true.

Those are my thoughts. What do you think about this?

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