It has taken 2 years, but the vaping industry has taken a direct hit as the FDA has halted sales of e-cigarettes by the company Juul (the ban has since been halted by a stay).
The surprising FDA ban occurred in response to a marketing campaign that was designed to target teens since the product launched in 2016. The sweet, fruity flavors of Juul's vaping products proved tempting for many teens who not only wanted to look cool but also wanted to be seen as doing something healthier for their bodies than inhaling nicotine and tar through traditional cigarettes.
Unfortunately, they could not know the nicotine salts contained in the e-cigarettes contained far more nicotine than traditional smokers would inhale.
Teens could also not know the long-term effects of vaping had never been studied or deemed safer than cigarettes.
Alas, like the 2021 HBO hit Mare of Easttown, in which Mare (Kate Winslet) spent as much time vaping as she would solve the small town's murder mystery, the entire vaping scenario proved to be fiction, as adolescents began to fall ill with severe respiratory symptoms not too long after the product launch. A few were hospitalized, causing medical experts to begin to study whether vaping was as innocuous as it had been portrayed. It was not.
As events developed, vaping the sweet, enticing flavors was far from benign. Juul e-cigarettes, marketed to teens as young as 16 years, were incredibly addictive. Teens who believed the ease of sneaking Juul containers into school restrooms and gymnasiums made them enticing found themselves using the pods multiple times per day. By the time of this writing, it has been estimated that 11.3% of high schoolers vape (Surveillance Summaries, Tobacco Use, 2022), but what is most significant is the correlation between teen vaping and Juul profits.
In 2016, within one year of Juul's launch party (June 1, 2015 in New York City), backed by influencers and marketing campaigns targeting youth followers, sales rose by over 700%. The launch campaign was titled Vaporized. Teens posted on social media platforms, including Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.
What teens loved about the e-cigarette was the ability to use the vaping device anywhere, as the process of vaping involved no smell. What the teens did not realize was that each inhalation contained nicotine salts as well as thousands of unknown chemicals not disclosed by manufacturers of vaping products (Chemical Research in Toxicology, 2021).
But aside from what might be contained in the e-cigarettes, problems began to occur as early as 2018 based on the contents of what was known to be in the pods.
Juul is the licensed name of a specific product, but consumers now use the name synonymously to describe any e-cigarette that delivers nicotine to the lungs without the use of smoke. Vaping devices contain vape liquid (known as juice). Activating the device delivers juice to the lungs as vapor, supplying product with each inhalation.
Although the device was marketed as safer than traditional cigarettes, harmful side effects began appearing among teens during early years post-launch, prompting consumer litigation and government outcry.
It was alleged by scientific study that one Juul pen could contain as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes. A pod may also contain potential heavy metals, such as tin, lead, and nickel, or unspecified, volatile organic compounds. Juul's manufacturer was asked to refute these claims with research of their own, but, according to the FDA, had failed to comply.
Nicotine toxicity and addiction may occur rapidly with teens. Unwanted side effects, such as throat irritation and lung inflammation may also occur, as well as changes in neurologic condition (irritability, sleeplessness, excitability) or seizures.
An FDA investigation and class action lawsuits were initiated as early as 2018, with calls for Juul to withdraw a few of the sweeter flavors from the market, and to cease marketing specifically to juveniles. But progress has been slow, even after several teen deaths were linked to vaping during summer 2019.
Recently, China and India pulled out of lucrative contracts with Juul, citing concerns over the health of younger citizens. The United States banned the sale of Juul e-cigarettes on June 23, although a US Court of Appeals has been granted a temporary administrative stay of the order, claiming overreach.
So, we can only wait and wonder…
Is this a costly bump in the road for Juul, or a death knell for the company?
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Cite this: Diane M. Goodman. Shocking News for Juul, Healthier News for Juveniles - Medscape - Jul 06, 2022.