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Juul e-cig is a ‘genie you can’t put back,’ anti-tobacco leader says

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woman vaping vape e-cigShutterstock


Bad habits are tough to break.

The
Juul, an e-cigarette
that delivers a nicotine hit equal to
the amount in two packs of cigarettes, may be one of the
toughest.

Adult customers say they find the high nicotine content as
satisfying as conventional cigarettes, but the Juul also has a
growing number of teen fans, whose
developing brains are uniquely vulnerable
to addiction. Those
teens could become a new generation of smokers, researchers
warn. 

“This is really the genie you can’t put back in the
bottle,” Matthew
Myers
, the president of the nonprofit Campaign for Tobacco
Free Kids, told Business Insider.

In recent months — as a backlash against Juul has grown — the
company has been emphatic that its products are not intended for
teens, and Juul has taken measures to counter that reputation.
But researchers and advocates say that
teens who’ve been attracted to the devices’ sleek design and
sweet flavors
may now be addicted to nicotine. Young people
who vape may be up to seven
times more likely
to
smoke regular cigarettes
than teens who never try an
e-cig, according to several peer-reviewed studies.

Since April, consumers have filed at least three lawsuits against
Juul for what they allege are deceptive marketing practices that
didn’t clearly outline how addictive nicotine is,
Wired recently reported
. On Tuesday, Massachusetts Attorney
General Maura Healey
launched an investigation
into the company to determine
if Juul violated state consumer-protection laws by failing to
keep minors from buying their products. Those challenges come on
the heels of several other legal hurdles for the
company, including a
San Francisco ban on flavored tobacco
and a
Food and Drug Administration crackdown
.

‘I’ve never seen a phenomenon like this before’


JUUL In Hand Female Denim Jacket copyPax
Labs

There’s no question about the Juul’s popularity.

Juul now represents 70.5% of the e-cig market, and dollar sales
climbed 738% in the four-week period that ended on July 14,
according to Nielsen data. 

Teens seem to love it. Instagram and YouTube are full
of videos of teens vaping, 
or
“Juuling,”
 in class and even
on the sly in front of teachers
.

Those photos and videos can double as unintentional
advertisements for the product.

“Once something is the rage like this, the kids are doing it for
you,” Myers said of Juul’s growing teen following.

A Juul Labs spokesperson told Business Insider that the company
has been working with Instagram and Facebook in recent months to
remove any content showing minors using the Juul, and has
successfully removed more than 4,000 posts from the platforms. In
June, the company announced that it would no longer feature
models on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, and would instead
exclusively show former smokers who switched from combustible
cigarettes to the Juul.

But Myers said those efforts have come too late.

A string of 
high
schools

 along the East Coast has already
cited 

“Juuling”
in bathroom stalls

 as a widespread problem, and
dozens of teachers have reported
confiscating 

Juul
devices disguised as Sharpies

 and other classroom
items.

“I don’t go anywhere where there isn’t a parent in the
audience who isn’t concerned about the Juul,” Myers
said. “I’ve never seen a phenomenon like this
before.”


Ana Rule
, a professor at Johns Hopkins University and an
author of a recent study on e-cigs and teens, agrees that young
people’s use of e-cigs — no matter the brand — is a huge
concern.

“Vaping among teens is my and most public health
professionals’ biggest worry,” Rule
told Business Insider in March
.

E-cig manufacturers including Juul Labs say their devices
are designed for adult smokers who are looking to switch from
cigarettes to less harmful products. But it’s not clear that
using vape pens helps people give up cigarettes. In fact, the
bulk of research suggests that people who take up vaping
continue to smoke regular cigarettes
and may be
less successful at quitting
than those who don’t
use e-cigs
. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance
— one
analysis
 ranked it above alcohol and barbiturates
(anti-anxiety drugs). Some 85% of
people
who try to quit smoking on their own
relapse. 

Ironically, young people who vape have a higher likelihood
of smoking conventional cigarettes than those who don’t. That’s
why so many public health researchers are worried about the Juul.

In the recent lawsuits, most of which were filed on behalf of
teens, the defendants allege that the devices are so high in
nicotine that they could not stop using them and quickly began
showing symptoms of addiction. One complaint alleged that a
15-year-old defendant became “anxious, highly irritable, and
prone to angry outbursts” after using the Juul.

“He is unable to avoid Juuling even though it subjects him to
disciplinary measures at home and at school,” the claim says.

If you’re a Juul or Pax employee with a story to share, email
this reporter at [email protected]

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