The American e-cigarette company JUUL Labs produces electronic cigarettes that are supposedly a healthier alternative for those attempting to quit smoking. This past June, the FDA announced that due to its marketing toward minors, JUUL would be banned from selling anything until further notice. What’s happening now?
In the past few months, Juul has responded with an appeal to the Federal Court which resulted in a temporary block on the FDA’s ban. On top of that, the FDA put an administrative stay on its own order. Benjamin Gies, a writer for the Lexington Herald-Leader, has implied in an Op-Ed that there is most likely some form of bribery or lobbying taking place, stating, “Now is not the time for FDA leaders to succumb to threats from big money corporations”. The positive, though, is that McKinsey and Co. (the marketers behind JUUL) have been blocked from signing new contracts for the time being.
The central reason why JUUL is being heard out is that their supposed intent is to help adults stop smoking. What’s interesting, though, is that the FDA has allowed other e-cigarette brands such as R.J. Reynolds and Logic to sell vapes on the market. And of course, younger populations can be drawn toward other manufacturers.
What makes JUUL so harmful to young populations is that they are marketed toward us. Teenagers don’t just happen to come across these products, and there is a reason why ultimately, the marketing company behind the product has been blocked. One major way that JUUL markets its products to younger populations is in their flavors such as bubble gum or tropical fruit. These flavors are also advertised through colorful, modern packaging that is unlike what students have been advised against in school or by parents.
So, it may be true that the idea of an e-cigarette can make it easier for smokers to quit by providing a middle ground between sobriety and nicotine addiction. However, by using modern packaging and salivating flavors, JUUL’s products are a double edged sword that also serve as a modern, convenient, and seemingly cool gateway into drug addiction.
And unfortunately, this double edged sword is much sharper on one side than the other as studies show that those between 15-17 years old are over 16 times more likely to use JUUL products than those between the ages of 25-34. What’s worse is that according to a survey, nearly 42% of youth e-cigarette users vape because they like how it tastes, 15% because it seems cool, and only 6% to break a tobacco addiction. Additionally, congressional investigators have found that JUUL Labs deployed a “sophisticated program” where they paid schools up to $10,000 to let company representatives tell students about JUULing and sometimes even show them how to use the product. There is also evidence that the company has targeted young students through summer camps and extracurricular programs.
The bottom line is that both in practice and in theory, JUULing is marketed towards young audiences and creates a gateway for adolescents to form addictions. The FDA is a federal institution and has a duty to fulfill when it comes to our nation’s safety. If JUULs are threatening something as important as our health, then bribery should not come into play, and action must be taken to do what is best.