7 Things You NEED to Know about the JUUL© Vaping Issue

Unless you’ve been completely avoiding the media, you’ve likely heard about all the current controversy surrounding the new JUUL© vaping epidemic.

The JUUL© vaping trend is a hot topic that is getting major attention in the media…and for good reason. The e-cigarette brand is soaring in popularity and, as the public is becoming increasingly aware, there are serious health risks associated with this trend that users need to beware of.

Recently, founding partner, John Jefcoat, attended two seminars about this product and how it’s affecting users.

Luckily, you don’t need to dedicate an entire weekend to understanding this important issue, because we’re summing it up for you here. Read on for the 7 things you NEED to know about the JUUL© Vaping Epidemic and what to do if you or a loved one has been affected.

1. As of this week, the Louisiana Department of Health confirmed its first vape-related death.

On Monday, November 18, the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) confirmed the first death linked to a vaping-associated lung injury in Louisiana. While there have been 30 total cases of vaping-related lung injuries confirmed by doctors in Louisiana alone, state officials continue to work with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to investigate the severity of these cases. Out of over 2,000 reports of lung injuries suspected to be caused by vaping this year in the U.S., at least 40 have been fatal.

2. Although this product is marketed as an alternative to cigarettes, they have a lot more in common with traditional tobacco than you may think– including the fact that they’re likely to increase the use and dependence on tobacco, not decrease it.

E-cigarettes, including popular brand JUUL©, which currently owns 78% of the e-cigarette market– were originally marketed as an alternative to cigarettes. However, while some smokers have successfully quit smoking by using e-cigarettes, most smokers are less likely, not more likely, to quit smoking. In fact, the overall effect of e-cigarette use to depress the smoking sensation has not occurred and, in fact, flavored e-cigarettes do not decrease the likelihood of the cigarette sensation.

In addition, there is an incredible amount of commonality between the way e-cigarettes and traditional tobacco products are marketed, as well. For example, the tobacco industry’s playbook has consistently used women, smoking, and baseball players using smokeless tobacco in their advertising– we have all seen Joe Camel and the Marlboro man buy and promote tobacco use. JUUL© has used these same marketing techniques. The principal advertising themes were in line with Marlboro, to indicate pleasure and relaxation, socialization and romance, style, and satisfaction. The JUUL© color packs are red, blue, and gold, which closely resemble the Marlboro pack colors when launched…not so different after all.

3. The vaping trend is especially popular among young adults and high school-aged minors.

Over the past decade, there had been a decrease in cigarette use in adolescents ages 10 to 17 and young adults ages 18 to 24. However, since 2018, this has changed with more adolescent youth and young adults using tobacco overall. This is widely believed to be attributed to electronic cigarette use, which includes e-cigarettes, vapes, and vape pens– including the popular brand JUUL©.

American teens have reported a sudden increase in the use of vaping devices in the past year. Since December 2018, 37.3% of all high school seniors report vaping as compared to 27.8% in 2017. This startling increase began in 2017, the same year the current JUUL© product was introduced into the market. In 2017, 11.7% of all high school students reported regular vaping, which is up from 1.5% in 2011. The use of vaping in middle schoolers is up to 3.3%, which is an increase of .6% since 2011. (from the 2017 National Youth Tobacco Survey) 

4. The JUUL© brand has faced legal issues for targeting advertising to underage minors and until recently, was available in multiple youth-friendly flavors with nicotine concentrations of 5%, making the product dangerously appealing to youth by masking the taste of tobacco.

As many of us know,  flavor and/or taste is one of the most common marketing techniques used to promote food, such as candy and snacks, to children on TV. The tobacco industry, including JUUL©, have for a number of years used flavors, like mint, menthol, fruit and candy flavored tobacco, to appeal to America’s youth and new users by masking the harsh taste and smell of tobacco.

Research on e-cigarettes is consistent with these findings, concluding that flavors play an important role for online e-cigarette marketing and boosting user interaction and positive emotion. Adolescents are more likely to report interest in trying an e-cigarette from a friend if it is menthol, candy or fruit flavored. For a long time, JUUL© came in a number of flavors, including “Cool Cucumber”, “Creme Brûlée”, “Cool Mint”, and “Fruit Melody”. JUUL© changed these names after allegations that they were targeting these particular flavors to a youth demographic, and JUUL© has since pulled all flavored pods off the market outside of tobacco, mint, and menthol. However, it is worth noting that our youth are significantly at risk of being targeted by e-cigarette companies by using flavored pods.

5. The JUUL© brand has relied heavily on marketing themselves on social media, where youths spend a large amount of time online.

JUUL’s© advertising has been widely distributed on social media platforms, amplified by hashtag extensions and through compensated influencers on Instagram. JUUL© has, at this point, discontinued these advertising techniques, but the damage has been done. Internet searches include “JUUL© at school”, “JUUL© in classroom”, “hiding JUUL© in school” and most importantly, “JUUL© in the bathroom,” to illustrate the popularity of the product among students.

When it comes to “Generation Z”– the generation of present-day middle and high school students– there are some interesting things to consider. For example, they have never experienced the world without internet. They are immersed in social media, and most often, they use social media on their mobile phones. 89% of teenagers spend a lot of time online. 44% of teenagers are constantly on their phones, and 44% are on their phones several times a day. 67% of today’s teens, 13 to 17 years old, use Facebook. 75% of today’s teens use Snapchat. 63% of teens, ages 13 to 14 years old, use Instagram, and 78% of teens, ages 15 to 17 years old, use Instagram. 44% of teens use Twitter. 93% of teens, 13 to 14 years old, use YouTube, and 98% of teens, 15 to 17 years old, use YouTube and watch daily.

Because social mediums like Instagram deliver content very quickly, it is an effective way for JUUL© to share its graphic, simple messages. Most social media platforms allow for hashtags to catalog posts and make the original author’s post discoverable outside of his/her network. The search #JUUL on most social media platforms, produces posts that include that hashtag, which allows JUUL© to automatically populate their feed with JUUL© posts from across the internet and/or across social media platforms. To capitalize on this, JUUL© previously created hashtag marketing campaigns for each nicotine flavor it sold. For instance, in 2017, JUUL© promoted its new mango nicotine pod with #mangomonday and subsequently launched cool mint pods with the hashtag #coolmint. This generated hundreds of thousands of user-generated posts. During this exact same period, mango and mint pods quickly became the most popular flavors amongst minors between the ages of 15 to 17. Additionally, Kevin Burns, CEO of JUUL©, admitted that JUUL© tweeted nearly 5,000 times in 2017 alone. JUUL© has also admitted to compensating a number of trendsetters and/or influencers to promote their product across different social media platforms.

6. While marketed as an alternative to cigarettes, the JUUL©  brand is actually part-owned by the largest producer of tobacco products in the US.

With the popular vaping product being marketed as an alternative to cigarettes, it may come as a shock that the JUUL© brand has now sold 35% of its company and control of its board of directors to Altria, Inc.– the parent company of Phillip Morris, the largest producer of tobacco products in the United States for the last 40 years. As part of the deal, Altria, Inc. promised top-shelf placement in all convenient stores in which the Phillip Morris brand is sold. JUUL© inserts were added directly inside packs of cigarettes, and all direct marketing mail sent by Phillip Morris was to have advertisements about the JUUL© product.

7. The JUUL© brand’s size and convenience play a large role in its popularity and addictiveness.

One of the most popular aspects of the JUUL© is its size and its ability to disguise as a USB drive, leading to what is now being called “stealth vaping”. Many of our young people use JUUL© discreetly so that family members and teachers don’t recognize their use of nicotine and/or THC latent e-cigarette vapor. In 2018, there were over 18,000 videos on YouTube about “stealth vaping”.

In 2017, it was believed that e-cigarettes were the most commonly used tobacco product among adolescent youth in the United States with over 2 million users. In contrast, only 1.5 million adolescent youth use cigarettes and other tobacco products combined. In fact, according to the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey, 42% of all high school students have now tried an electronic cigarette, and 3% of all middle school students reported use. It is the opinion of many, that JUUL© has targeted its vaping product at the youth market. This has continued, in our opinion, with the purchase of JUUL© by Altria, Inc.. One JUUL© pod is the equivalent to smoking anywhere from 26 to 40 cigarettes, which is more than one pack of standard cigarettes. In general, one JUUL© pod equals 1.5 – 2 packs of cigarettes worth of nicotine. This allows many users to become addicted faster and more easily.

The Burning Question: What Can Be Done?

By now you might be wondering what can be done if you or someone you love has been affected by consuming this harmful product. Currently, Galloway Jefcoat, LLP is accepting cases versus JUUL©. If you or someone you know has been affected by this product, you should contact our office or email our in-house expert for help immediately. This is a serious matter, as injuries may vary from nicotine addiction, seizure, stroke, heart attack, lung damage, and death, with the most significant indications are between the ages of 14 and 26 years of age. If you or someone you love has been affected, please do not hesitate to reach out to our office for help– it could be the difference between life or death.