Juul – the tiny, sleek e-cigarette favoured by teens – has shut down its Facebook and Instagram and pulled most of its flavours from US stores in an attempt to be less appealing to teenagers.
The company says its product is not marketed to teens, and that it’s supposed to be for adults who want to get off the nicotine combustibles, not people of any age who were never on them. It’s issued plenty of statements to that effect.
But with a sleek little design that’s not your weird uncle’s e-cig, totes fun flavours like mango, creme brulee, fruit medley and cucumber, and a well-established rep as the Insta influencer’s vape of choice, the Juul has kind of become the Vodka Cruiser of vaping: sure, they say they’re not marketing to The Youth, but The Youth are sure as hell interested in buying them.
Juul also has 60% of the American vape market. (It’s not available in Australia through any legitimate means – e-cigarettes with nicotine aren’t legal in Australia without a prescription.)
Juul’s proprietary formula has a high nicotine level, and while it’s almost certainly better for you than sucking down burning tar sticks two dozens times a day, there’s definitely evidence many young people are picking up a nicotine habit. Per the New Yorker:
[A]ccording to a 2017 study by the C.D.C., about fifty per cent more high schoolers and middle schoolers vape than smoke. Young people have taken a technology that was supposed to help grownups stop smoking and invented a new kind of bad habit, one that they have molded in their own image.
There’s concerns among health experts and parenting groups that we don’t know the long-term health effects of e-cigs, and the FDA followed up months of pressure on Juul with a full-on raid on its offices in October where it seized 50,000 documents.
But one thing that seems to have been forgotten in the moral panic around the undeniably addictive little pens? That some teenagers themselves might also want an off-ramp from the pack-a-day highway.
As a couple of Twitter users pointed out, Americans aged 18 to 20 can actually buy regular cigarettes – and that Juul just made it harder for users in that age group to get their non-combustible nicotine fix. Juul responded that as part of their corporate responsibility policies, they support the campaign to raise the legal age to buy cigs to 21, in line with the legal drinking age.
Fortunately, teenagers have absolutely no track record when it comes to get hold of substances the government doesn’t want them to have, so this should work out exactly as planned.