In a recent CNBC documentary, the Juul CEO expressed apologies to the parents of children who use Juul e-cigarettes. Kevin Burns said that it was not the company’s intention to appeal to teens and that he, as a parent of a teenager, has great empathy for the damage that has been done.
Indeed, teen vaping has emerged as a national epidemic. Kids Juuling, or using the popular e-cigarettes, has been at the center of the conversation.
Juul is a young company that has come to dominate the vaping industry in recent years. Juul has recently attracted widespread scrutiny at the national level, including being called on by the Supreme Court to supply proof that its marketing did not target underage users. As a result, the company has taken enormous strides to mend their public image. The first thing you currently see on their website is an age-verification pop-up that requires users to be 21 and over to even access the site. If you select the option indicating that you are not 21, you are redirected to a government website that helps teens quit smoking.
The history of the company, in their own words, began with a vision to create a genuine alternative to smoking. However, this San Francisco-based company is seeing its own city take extraordinary strides to protect young people from the harmful potential of e-cigarette use. In 2020, an e-cigarette ban will be enforced.
Yale Medicine cites a study by the University of Michigan, reporting that, in 2017, 11% of high school seniors vaped nicotine within a one-month survey period. The company’s narrative has been challenged by people who accuse them of creating a product that perpetuates nicotine addiction. Vape pens or e-cigarettes are filled with a container of liquid that can have several times higher concentration of nicotine than a traditional cigarette.
According to The New England Journal of Medicine, Juul’s patent records indicate that their vape pen pod mods, or the liquid cartridges used to refill the e-cigarettes, contain as much as 10 times the amount of nicotine as other e-cigarette brands. The quantity of nicotine in each pod is about the same as 20 cigarettes. This means that they are delivering a high amount of nicotine to the user. If this is a teenager, it raises questions about long-term nicotine use and addiction.
JUUL Sparked An Epidemic
There are varying opinions as to why teens Juuling happens more frequently than with other e-cigarette brands. Many critics accuse Juul of marketing to minors. In 2017, Juul accounted for about 40% of the retail market shares for e-cigarettes. There are many reasons that Juul is accused of marketing to minors. Some of these factors include:
- The nature of their social media presence
- The allegedly teen-friendly products, including USB-shaped vape pens and fruit/dessert flavored pods
- The accessories sold with and for their vape pens
- The lifestyle nature of their media and marketing
Marketing on teen-oriented social platforms using adolescent themed content has presented a problem for Juul’s reputation. The CEO is clearly aware of that and continues to downplay the accusations with his pointed apology.
According to the National Institute of Health, in 2018, 9.5% more 12th graders admitted to vaping within the past year than in 2017. Vaping statistics reflect increased teen use e-cigarettes. Teenage vaping statistics for Juul products, in particular, are even more concerning. According to research done for Tobacco Control, 15-34 year-olds were surveyed about tobacco use, specifically related to Juul. The highest rates of Juul use were recorded among 15-21 year olds. This survey data indicates that teens are using Juul habitually, not experimentally.
Preventing Teen Vaping
The negative effects of vaping in teen years can create a habit that lasts a lifetime. Nicotine can lead to teen addiction. Adolescents who begin smoking habitually are at a higher risk for future substance abuse.
Talking to your teenager about drugs is an important way to stay connected and alert to signs of misuse. There are many resources to help you have this important conversation – the most important step is to speak up and begin the dialogue.
Barrington-Trimis, Jessica L. et al. “Adolescents’ Use of ‘Pod Mod’ E-Cigarettes — Urgent Concerns.” The New England Journal of Medicine. Published September 20, 2018. Accessed August 6, 2019.
Huang, Jidong et al. “Vaping versus JUULing: how the extraordinary growth and marketing of JUUL transformed the US retail e-cigarette market.” Tobacco Control Journal. Published March 2019. Accessed August 6. 2019.
National Institutes of Health. “Teens using vaping devices in record numbers.” Published December 17, 2018. Accessed August 6. 2019.
Raven, Kathleen. “Your Teen Is Underestimating the Health Risks of Vaping.” Yale Medicine. Published December 19, 2018. Accessed August 6, 2019.
Vallone, Donna M. et al. “Prevalence and correlates of JUUL use among a national sample of youth and young adults.” Tobacco Control. Published October 30, 2018. Accessed August 6, 2019.