The hottest topic in vaping the past few months has been “Juul”. In fact Juul has been one of the most talked about things in America recently! What is Juul you might be asking yourself should you be living in a cave somewhere? Juul is a small electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS), utilizing high strength “salt nic”, all in a tiny rectangular “closed” pod system. It’s one of dozens of similarly described devices currently on the market, but for mysterious external reasons, it is becoming the battleground for which this great debate of our generation might take place.
So one of hundreds of devices, in a relatively new market (let’s say 10 years old), in which it is common for technology to turn over approximately every 3 months. What’s the big deal you might be asking yourself? Why doesn’t the industry just cut it’s loses and move on? Well to put it plainly……. Juul is THE perfect product. Now now, I know what you’re thinking so follow me for a moment and let’s get back on the same page. No I don’t use a Juul, no I don’t believe in “closed systems”, no I don’t use “salt nic” products. But I do sell Juul, albeit far down my “let’s talk about some options…” speech with customers, and lots of customers don’t even know we carry it (to be fair, it’s not hidden, just on the back shelf under eye line, put there specifically because of the constant bad press). We have a handful of customers, mostly deep in Gen X, that for several reasons can’t and/or refuse to have a sense of humor for any other ways of vaping. Set in their ways, the simplicity, ease of use, hard hits, and mild pleasant flavors of Juul are the ONLY thing keeping analog cigarettes out of their faces. And when you look at the 2016 FDA Deeming Rule, there has not been a product more closely following their guidelines than the Juul! So why do I say the Juul is THE perfect vape product? It most closely operates / feels like an analog cigarette, and it was designed from the ground up to fly through the FDA’s impossible regulations. So why then you might be asking, is Juul being vilified like Hitler’s jock strap and taking the blame for decimating an entire civilization? There are 2 people who love the Juul…… Old people and Children.
Based on several reports, most of questionable validity, children as young as 10 are “Juuling”, most American middle schools, and for absolute our high schools, are teeming with Juuls. “Juuling” has even become a verb to describe vaping on a Juul. Due to it’s high strength salted nicotine the resulting nausea or rush is colloquially known by the underage groups as getting “Nic sic”. YouTube is littered with hundreds of videos describing how to Juul, how to hide your Juul, how to camouflage your Juul in common use items like Magic Markers, and how to acquire them if you’re underage. Whether you believe the government reports or not, certainly there is enough smoke (no pun intended) here to comfortably accept that for whatever reasons the Juul has become a phenomenon at the 13 – 18 year old demographic.
Before we get into why, lets quickly look at Juul the company. Below is a quote from their website explaining the corporate values and mission,
“James Monsees and Adam Bowen co-founded JUUL when they applied their background in product design to the challenge of finding a better alternative to smoking. They’d been smokers for many years, but they were increasingly dissatisfied with the health and social impacts of cigarettes. When they could find no attractive alternative to cigarettes, James and Adam recognized a groundbreaking opportunity to apply industrial design to the smoking industry, which had not materially evolved in over one hundred years. As smokers, they knew a viable alternative to cigarettes would have to offer a nicotine level found in no other alternative on the market. It would also have to invite its own ritual. The result was JUUL.”
They don’t appear to be wolves in sheep’s clothing. The packaging they have designed and implemented could not be more “adult”, no cartoons, no bright colors, no misleading information, and in fact across the top it clearly states, “the alternative for adult smokers”. Their base flavors are tobacco, mint, mango, fruit punch, and crème brulee (less than 5 other seasonal flavors like cucumber mint, Virginia tobacco etc. released in limited quantities). The company adamantly denies any insinuations they market to kids, cater to a younger audience in any way, or have “allowed” this situation to occur by using a blind eye. Although clandestine behavior is certainly prevalent in corporate business practices, so much so that the average American even expects it, I just can’t find any evidence or logic that supports an idea Juul is secretly trying to convert our nation’s youth into dirty smokers. Having been a professional in this industry for over 5 years, I can’t think of another product more designed and directed to older smokers than the Juul!
A very small form factor. High strength nicotine with a relatively smooth throat hit. Mild inoffensive flavors. A product designed for a particularly reasonable retail price point with wide spread market penetration / distribution. And finally, it’s a simple device to operate (this is particularly important as right now vaping is certainly NOT simple, usually not cheap, and in many cases requires the knowledge of advanced mathematical equations). These 5 reasons are why I conclude the Juul has become such a craze with underage people. On a positive spin, these same 5 reasons (in an adult conversation) seem to be the American capitalistic dream and in direct correlation with their corporate mission statement. They had a personal need for a better mouse trap. They designed this better mouse trap using cutting edge technology. And finally they are sharing (distributing) this better mouse trap to other people that may have the same need. That’s business 101 on any level. As it says in their statement, they looked at the vaping landscape and decided what was out there wasn’t for them; they didn’t want to “vape” they just wanted to replace their cigarettes with an electronic device. It also appears they used the 2016 Deeming Rule as guidance, a blueprint for designing the Juul. I have to presume their business model was one that IF “vaping” (big clouds, high wattage, etc.) was outlawed their product would be one of the few left in the market. Going further into speculation, I would even say they were/are banking on 99% of the market getting removed leaving them in a pseudo-monopoly scenario. Brilliant. They tried to play the game based on the government’s rulebook, they were/are successful in the game, and now they are being blamed for the downfall of humanity.
None of this is fair. None of this is reasonable. None of this is logical. If the scenario I’ve laid out is at all “face value” then ALL of vaping could be doomed. This week the FDA and dozens of congressmen & senators have begun a campaign against Juul. A letter was sent with an April 30th deadline demanding Juul turn over a wide array of confidential information, including questions such as “A complete ingredients list and manufacturing practices…..Juul is being “required” to “admit” to congress how many underage people purchase and/or use their products (has anyone demanded Budweiser admit to how many kids drink a beer at 16? How would they EVER be able to know that??)…. And to defend their practice of using “kid friendly” flavors to entice users.” We have layers of laws in place in this country to prevent corporations from being extorted, abused, and manipulated by nefarious actors. Most of what the government is demanding of Juul is in direct argument to these laws.
Is there a way for Juul to exist in this world without being blamed for the malicious and illegal occasional misuse? I don’t know. Should the rights of consenting (and “in need”) adults be arbitrarily suspended at the whim of a Senator? I don’t know. But what’s obvious is this government continues to give adult smokers very few other options and continues to focus on shame and guilt as their primary regulatory tools. I only hope that common sense prevails, a compromise can be reached, and our politicians think about the country and not their personal pocketbooks lined with special interest money.