The JUUL e-cigarette is incredibly popular in the United States. It’s so popular, in fact, that it’s claimed about three quarters of the vaping market in traditional retail outlets such as supermarkets, gas stations and convenience stores. The JUUL has become so popular that traditional cigarette-shaped e-cigarettes are at risk of becoming completely irrelevant in the U.S. When a single product becomes so popular that its competitors cease to matter, that product is going to receive a lot of scrutiny. Do you remember the antitrust proceedings against Microsoft in the late ‘90s and early 2000s? JUUL is going through that stage of its life now, and a crisis in America’s schools is at the centre of the discussion. Millions of underage children in the U.S. have taken up vaping, and most of them reportedly use the JUUL.

How Bad Is the U.S. Underage Vaping Problem?

The U.S. government conducts surveys of school-aged children each year regarding tobacco product use. Although a certain subset of children has used e-cigarettes as long as the U.S. vaping industry has existed, tobacco cigarette use has declined rapidly – and the number of total underage nicotine users decreased each year until 2017. In 2018, though, the number of students using nicotine increased for the first time in many years. The increase occurred because more children were using e-cigarettes. Among high schoolers, for example, the number of kids using e-cigarettes increased from less than 20 percent in 2017 to more than 27 percent in 2018. The total number of underage e-cigarette users in the U.S. increased from about 2.1 million to 3.6 million. Dr. Scott Gottlieb – the Director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration – the organization responsible for regulating the tobacco and vaping industries – called the massive increase in vaping among children an “epidemic.”

Vaping amount Children an epidemic?

While Dr. Gottlieb recognizes the potential health benefit that vaping holds for adult smokers, he has also stated that those benefits can’t come at the expense of 3.6 million new nicotine addicts who now vape but probably wouldn’t have ever smoked cigarettes. If the vaping industry can’t manage to immediately reverse the trend of underage vaping, Dr. Gottlieb stated that the FDA will use the full extent of its power to do whatever is necessary to make vaping less appealing to children. He hasn’t ruled out the possibility of banning all flavoured e-liquids.

So, why is JUUL at the centre of this controversy? It’s because JUUL now captures 75 percent of all e-cigarette sales in traditional retail stores. It stands to reason, then, that 75 percent of those 3.6 million underage vapers are using JUUL products – and anecdotal evidence suggests that the actual number may be even higher. Kids in the United States, after all, don’t even use the term “vaping.” They call it “JUULing.”

What Is JUUL Labs Doing About Underage Vaping?

After receiving the results from the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey and other independent research, the FDA approached several major U.S. vaping companies to request their action plans for how they intend to combat underage vaping. JUUL Labs – being the maker of the products most preferred by children who obtain vaping products illegally – was among the first companies to respond.

On November 13, 2018, JUUL Labs published its detailed action plan to reverse the underage vaping trend. Most importantly for adult JUUL users in New Zealand and elsewhere, JUUL announced that it would temporarily stop shipping JUUL pods with non-cigarette flavours to retail stores and to distributors. 

Mint, Classic Tobacco, Virginia Tobacco and Menthol JUUL pods will remain available through their current channel Mango, Cucumber, Crème and Fruit pods will be available only through the JUUL Vapor website.

In surveys, underage e-cigarette users have reported that the availability of sweet flavours is one of the primary reasons why they vape. JUUL hopes that, by restricting the distribution of its sweet pods, they will make their product less attractive to children.

JUUL’s other changes include the following:

JUUL will strengthen the age verification system on its website to ensure that the shopping cart system automatically rejects attempted purchases from people who can’t legally purchase tobacco products.

 JUUL will reject all attempted purchases from customers younger than 21. This measure should prevent 18-year-old high school students from buying JUUL products for illegal resale to younger students. JUUL will also encourage other vaping and tobacco companies to pursue 21-and-older sales policies.

JUUL will put strict limits on the number of pods and kits that customers can order through its website. This measure should further discourage customers from buying bulk JUUL products for unlicensed resale.

JUUL is working on a technological innovation that would use Bluetooth within the vaping device hardware to prevent underage use. Existing regulations prevent companies from releasing new vaping products in the United States without FDA approval, but JUUL plans to release the next-generation device in other regions of the world where it is legal to do so. JUUL will also work with the FDA to find a legal pathway to sell the next-generation device in the U.S.

How Will the JUULing Controversy Affect JUUL in New Zealand?

As you’re aware, JUUL products already aren’t particularly easy to find in New Zealand. If you’re a JUUL user, that might be one of the reasons why you’re an EasyPuff™ customer – because you can find your JUUL kits and JUUL pods right here. In response to JUUL’s announcement, many vaping distributors around the world immediately increased their wholesale prices for JUUL pods by as much as double. That presents some difficulty for EasyPuff™ because we refuse to harm our customers’ efforts to quit smoking by putting prices out of reach for the products on which they depend.

If you’re a JUUL user, we suggest that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to stock up on pods while you can. Given the changes that JUUL Labs has announced to its distribution network, it’s impossible for us to guarantee that all JUUL pod flavours will remain available in New Zealand at all times. We do pledge, however, that we will do everything possible to ensure the continued availability of these products. We also pledge that we will not increase our prices to profit unfairly from these changes.