Market Share: Juul Faces Scrutiny—Again
This year, products from electronic cigarette manufacturer Juul have surfaced everywhere in the marketing world: from magazine ads to billboards and social media, Juul products—which include e-cigarettes, vape pens, and the Juul device and pods—have become something of a hip accessory for users. According to Tobacco Control, Juul, which was introduced to market in 2015, is the most popular e-cigarette company with a year-over-year growth of more than 700 percent.
Unfortunately for the brand, many of its consumers are teens. The Surgeon General proclaimed youth e-cigarette smoking an epidemic in December 2018, and in this same year, the National Youth Tobacco Survey found that 20.8 percent of high schoolers (a 78-percent increase from 2017) and 4.9 percent of middle schoolers (a 48-percent increase from 2017), and collectively, more than 3.6 million young people, were e-cigarette users. According to the Truth Initiative, people ages 15-17 are 16 times more likely to use Juul products than people ages 25-34. The practice has become so common among youth, in fact, that they casually refer to using their Juul not as “vaping” or “smoking,” but as “Juuling.”
Despite the perception of being a “safer” alternative to cigarettes, studies have proven otherwise. Some of the greatest concerns involve flavored products, and according to the FDA’s Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) study of 2016-2017, 96.1 percent of youth ages 12-17 years who smoke e-cigarettes started with flavored products. All of Juul’s products use battery-operated coils to convert a liquid solution, informally referred to as “vape juice,” into vapor that is inhaled by the user. According to Medical News Today, vapors containing nicotine, which can cause lung inflammation and lung tissue damage associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Even worse, users can develop bronchiolitis obliterans, or “popcorn lung,” an irreversible lung disease caused by diacetyl, an ingredient commonly added to cherry, custard and pastry-flavored vape juices.
In September, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent a warning letter to Juul, threatening to fine or seize the company’s products if it didn’t correct its marketing to reflect truthfulness and stop targeting youth, according to CNBC. Juul is currently advertising nicotine pods as a safer alternative to cigarette smoking. The FDA has allegedly been investigating Juul for months, according to NBC, but this is the first warning letter to be issued to the company. States have also individually started making strides toward limiting consumer use and access to vapes. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on September 15 that he will declare e-cigarette use a health emergency and prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes in the state.
Danielle Renda is associate editor of PPB.