Category Archives: Juul

The rise and possibly fall of Juul? — Juul under investigation

Ro, ro, Shaggy.

Wow, this really interesting. This story blew me away. Apparently, some state and federal agencies and some state attorneys general looking into the company’s marketing practices. Could this be the fall of mighty Juul?

The attorneys general of Washington, D.C. and Illinois (and four other states) are investigating just how Juul became so popular with teens, literally within months of Juuls hitting the market.

I know one thing Juul did was very smartly (in an evil way) use Instagram and other social media to market Juul to mostly young people … who are on Instagram. I also know they totally came out of NOWHERE to completely dominate the e-cig market (they control about 75 percent of the market).

From a Los Angeles Times article:

A senior Illinois law enforcement official described to the Associated Press a wide-ranging inquiry being conducted by the office of Illinois Atty. Gen. Kwame Raoul that is centered on whether Juul violated state consumer fraud laws and other statutes by designing and marketing its products to appeal to underage teens. The official was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.

Marrisa Geller, a spokeswoman for District of Columbia Atty. Gen. Karl Racine, confirmed in an emailed statement that an investigation of Juul is underway. She said Racine is concerned about “the dramatic increase in the use of vaping products by district youth” as well as the policies and practices employed by e-cigarette manufacturers to prevent minors from using their products.

The attorneys general in Colorado, Connecticut and Massachusetts have announced investigations of Juul related to concerns over underage use of its products. North Carolina’s attorney general filed a lawsuit against Juul in May, asking a court to limit the company’s sales and marketing in the state.

I’m wondering here just how much shit Juul is actually in, but it sounds like possibly a lot. It sounds like there could be RICO statutes involved. This trouble isn’t going  to go away anytime soon and it certainly begs the question of whether this might be the beginning of the end for the company.

Interestingly, Juul actually donated $3,000 to the election campaign of the attorney general of Illinois, but he refused it on ethical grounds. Good for him.

Juul also has a bottomless pit of financing to fight the attorneys general. Remember, they are partly owned by Altria, which owns Philip Morris and Marlboro cigarettes.

I’ll definitely be keeping on eye on this story to see if anything comes of it.

Juul prepares to fight San Francisco

Remember the douchy Juul CEO who is so awfully, terribly sorry that teenagers use his product?

Well, while researching douche-bro, I found out he’s preparing to go to war with San Francisco.

San Francisco a few weeks ago was the first major city in the U.S. to ban sales of e-cig products.

Ironically, Juul, the No. 1 e-cig company in the world (it is actually partly owned by Altria, which makes Marlboro cigarettes), is based in San Francisco.

Douche-bro CEO Kevin Burns, who is so awfully sorry teens use his product after his company aggressively marketed Juuls on social media for years, said Juul is not leaving San Francisco.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

  • As San Francisco officials prepare to consider a bill that would suspend the sale of e-cigarettes in the city, the CEO of Juul Labs — the controversial, homegrown company that sells the majority of e-cigarettes in the U.S. — said he’s committed to keeping the business and its fast-growing workforce in San Francisco.

“Yes, we’re staying,” Juul CEO Kevin Burns said Thursday in a wide-ranging interview with The Chronicle’s editorial board. “San Francisco is our home. We want to be in San Francisco. We have 1,200 employees in San Francisco, a huge talent base in San Francisco. We want to be a resident, and I’m hopeful we’ll find a way to be a resident.”

And beyond that, Juul is going to fight the city’s ban on selling vaping products. The company is sponsoring a sneaky voter initiative that is being presented as an anti-tobacco initiative. What it really is is a backdoor attempt to override San Francisco’s ban on e-cigarette sales.

From the Chronicle:

Juul wants to place an initiative on the November ballot that would essentially override [San Francisco’s e-cig sales ban], if it is passed, by ensuring that e-cigarettes could continue to be sold in San Francisco. The ballot measure is being framed as an attempt to further restrict tobacco sales to minors, but most of those restrictions are already in place under state law.

Tobacco industry critics say Juul has used deceptive language, trying to frame the initiative as the last word in tobacco regulation in San Francisco by including the words “Comprehensive regulation of vapor products … the provisions of this initiative may only be amended by a vote of the people.”

Juul said the ballot measure, if passed, would prevent the Board of Supervisors from enacting an e-cigarette ban in the future — but it would not negate tobacco laws the city has already enacted, such as a ban on flavored tobacco that voters passed last year.

Oh, sneaky, sneaky, sneaky bastards, using the same sneaky doublespeak techniques that their overlord Altria and Philip Morris have used for years.

Juul’s owner is so awfully sorry

Juul CEO Kevin Burns

This happened a while ago, but I’m just now getting to it. I really got a kick out of it. And it pissed me off.

The owner of Juul actually apologized for the role his company played in helping to popularize e-cig use by teenagers.

It totally came off like an old Monty Python bit … “I’m so sorry, so awfully sorry I murdered all those people …  Gosh, I’m sorry …”

Yeah, he’s sorry he’s a billionaire, too, I’m sure.

From a USA today article:

“First of all, I’d tell them that I’m sorry that their child’s using the product,” said Kevin Burns, who joined Juul in late 2017. “It’s not intended for them. I hope there was nothing that we did that made it appealing to them. As a parent of a 16-year-old, I’m sorry for them, and I have empathy for them, in terms of what the challenges they’re going through.”

Oh, baloney, Kevin Burns, especially his bullshit about “I hope there was nothing that we did that made it appealing to them.”

Teen girl using a Juul

Juul was one of the vaping companies that most aggressively and successfully used social media to advertise its products, including Instragram “influencers.” Jull very quickly came to dominate the e-cig industry, gaining control of over 70 percent of the industry. This guy Burns is so full of it. He apologized because he got called to testify before congress and because lawsuits are piling up against Juul over addicting kids to nicotine (it turns out Juul pods are considerably more powerful with higher amounts of nicotine than other e-cig companies). This really takes the cake as one of the phoniest “apologies” I’ve ever seen. The L.A. Times even wrote an op-ed piece called, “Let’s call it a Juuling epidemic.”

From the USA Today article:

Yet Juul’s critics point to the company’s initial advertising campaign, which featured bright colors and young looking models, as evidence that Juul fueled the surge in teen vaping. Co-founder Adam Bowen said in retrospect the ads were “inappropriate.”

“When we launched Juul, we had a campaign that was arguably too kind of lifestyle-oriented, too flashy,” he said. “It lasted less than six months. It was in the early days of the product introduction. We think it had no impact on sales.”

The Campaign for Smokefree Kids thought the same of Burns’ apology as I did.

From their press release:

Once again, Juul is following the tobacco industry’s playbook: Proclaim loudly that they don’t want kids to use their product, while never admitting that their marketing targeted and attracted kids. Like its partner Altria, Juul still refuses to admit that the company’s marketing targeted kids or has played a major role in youth use of its e-cigarettes – despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

This is a deceptive, self-serving gesture by Juul given their complete refusal to take responsibility for creating the youth e-cigarette epidemic. It is a blatant attempt to deflect attention from the company’s wrongdoing while it opposes meaningful government regulation to prevent it from continuing to addict kids. There can be no doubt about Juul’s role in the current youth epidemic: It marketed a sleek, cool, high-tech product that comes in sweet flavors that appeal to kids, delivers a massive dose of nicotine that can quickly hook kids and was launched with social media marketing that a Stanford study found was patently youth-oriented.

This is one more example that Juul is more interested in repairing its image and expanding its sales than preventing youth use. Juul is following the tobacco industry’s playbook to the letter: Addict kids, deny responsibility for doing so, run slick PR campaigns to fool policy makers and the public, and fight real solutions to the problem.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

N.Y. Times: Tobacco industry circling like vultures around FDA

Well, this was completely predictable. As predictable as FDA director Scott Gottlieb being forced out to begin with.

Here is a great story from the New York Times about how tobacco and vaping lobbyists are now “circling” the FDA with Gottlieb’s ouster (and yeah, I’m going to call it an ouster … if it walks like a duck …)

That’s circling as in circling like vultures.

From the New York Times article:

Dr. Gottlieb will depart at the end of this month, following his sudden announcement last week that he would resign, with his plans to toughen regulation of both vaping and smoking unfinished and powerful lobbying forces quietly celebrating the exit of a politically canny administrator who aggressively wielded his regulatory powers.

Opponents are already swooping in, making their case to Congress and reaching out to the White House. A coalition of conservative organizations that oppose government intervention in the marketplace has harshly criticized Dr. Gottlieb’s crackdown on e-cigarettes. Retailers, including convenience store and gas station owners, are on Capitol Hill lobbying against guidelines Dr. Gottlieb proposed on Wednesday to restrict sales of most flavored e-cigarettes to separate adult-only areas and to require age verification of customers.

And major tobacco companies are likely to seize on his departure to try to scuttle his long-term plans to lower nicotine levels in cigarettes to nonaddictive levels and to ban menthol cigarettes, which make up more than a third of the cigarette market and dominate sales to African-Americans. Some longtime officials inside the F.D.A. said privately that they fear these ideas could be delayed indefinitely.

“There have been well-intentioned commissioners before Gottlieb,” said Jonathan Havens, a former F.D.A. tobacco lawyer now in private practice. “But they were not as good at capturing the attention of the nation, of the stakeholders. I think that momentum could very well stall on some of these products, or be lost completely.”

It turns out Altria donated $500,000 to Trump’s inauguration committee and that both Altria and Juul, the largest e-cig brand on the market (which Altria just purchased a controlling share of months ago), have both donated thousands to right-wing lobbying firms  run by people like Grover Norquist and others. Juul spent $1.6 million in donations to lobbyists, according to the New York Times.

Gottlieb had also proposed banning menthol cigarettes and forcing cigarette makers to cut the amount of nicotine in their products. Sure enough, it turns out that when asked if the FDA planned to follow through with Gottlieb’s proposals, the response was “no comment.” (I shit you not).

Altria now trying to buy into Juuls

Well, this was as predictable as the day is long.

I wrote a few days ago about how Altria is expanding its business to marijuana. Altria, which already owns the e-cigarette brand MarkTen, is now making a move to buy into the biggest e-cigarette brand out there, Juul.

It’s interesting. A lot of people think e-cigarettes and cigarettes are somehow in competition. Nothing could be further from the truth. They’re really two sides of the same coin, doing a cutesy little dance around each other.

At one time, Big Tobacco controlled about 80 percent of the e-cigarette market. Altria had MarkTen, RJ Reynolds controlled Blu for a while, then Blu was sold to and controlled by Imperial Brands, a subsidiary of Philip Morris. Meanwhile, RJ Reynolds kept control of Vuse. Those three brands constituted about 80 percent of the e-cigarette market.

So, no, e-cigarettes were not competing with Big Tobacco. E-cigarettes WERE Big Tobacco. All those people usuing e-cigarettes to get off cigarettes. All those people using e-cig to say “F U” to the tobacco industry. Hey, you were giving your money to the same CEOs. Big Tobacco was selling you both the disease and the cure.

Then, along came Juul to overturn the apple cart. Juul is a relatively new player in the e-cigarette market and sometime around 2017, this company started dominating the e-cig industry, pushing down Big Tobacco’s share in the market. Juul’s share got up to 75 percent. They did this in about two years.

Now, Altria is following the Big Tobacco playbook. When you can’t beat them in the marketplace, simply buy them out. 

Juuls are incredibly convenient. They look exactly like a computer flash drive. They can charge up by plugging them into a laptop. And the flavour viles are little and easy to use.

Juuls are controversial with a lot of people in the tobacco control industry because the company, much like Blu, was pretty fucking brazen about marketing to teens. Juul relied heavily on social media to market itself and they got themselve in the crosshairs big time not only of the tobacco control community, but of the FDA. After the FDA started suggesting that it was cracking down on e-cigs because of the explosion of e-cig use by teenagers, Juul very quickly abandoned all of its social media accounts and announced that it would no longer sell many of its fruity and surgary flavours.

Along comes Altria to save the day. Altria, the parent company behind what used to be known as Philip Morris, is abandoning its failed MarkTen product.

According to this CNBC article, Altria is looking at buying a “significant” share of Juul. And again, we follow the same pattern as Blu and MarkTen and Vuse.

Now, this news came out around the same time as the FDA announced that it was cracking down on e-cigs, mostly by requiring that e-cigs be sold in areas closed off to minors, and Juul shut down its social media accounts. We all know Altria has a long, long history of playing cutesy with the “Marketing to teens? Moi? Never!” game that Juul and every other e-cig brand has copied from.

I see this as Altria evolving and trying to stay an active player in the nicotine addiction game, via e-cigs and international marekts. (And my concern about Altria getting involved in marijuana is over the company cooking up schemes to add nicotine to marijuana to make it more addictive). This is a multi-billion dollar corporation that has no plans of simply slinking off into the sunset.

FDA to ban flavoured e-cig products from minimarts

Well, this is progress, I wonder if it will have any effect.

The FDA announced that it will soon ban the sale of e-cig flavourings at minimarts. This is in response to the rapid rise of e-cig use by teenagers. The FDA warned a few weeks ago that it was cracking down on e-cigs because of the epidemic of teen e-cig use. So, this is apparently step one.

Also, cartridge-based e-cig products like Juuls will no longer be allowed to be sold at convenience stores. Sales will be limited to tobacco and vaping shops. Juuls are relatively news, they’ve only been around a year or two, but their use has exploded (not literally) among teens.

That seriously limits the venues that e-cig flavours and Juuls will be sold at — basically from millions of convenience stores around the country to about 10,000 estimated tobacco and vaping stores. It won’t stop kids from trying to buy them, but will make it harder. And tobacco and vaping stores are more regulated than convenience stores.

The FDA, and this is a big one I think, is also going to impose more rules and regulations on online sales of vaping products, requiring stricter standards for age verification. Today, any kid with their own debit card can just click on “yes, I’m 18” on most of these sites.

Will these be enough to stop the epidemic of kids using e-cigs? Only time will tell, but the FDA suggested this is just the beginning of the steps that it plans to crack down on the industry and its lax attitude toward teen vaping.

From an NBC News article on the FDA’s move:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday that adult smoking rates have dropped to their lowest level yet, at 14 percent. But the CDC found that 47.4 million U.S. adults , or 19 percent of the adult population, uses any tobacco product, including cigarettes, cigars, or e-cigarettes.

Public health experts have been complaining that the fruity, candy-like flavors found in e-cigarettes are targeted directly at children and teenagers, and rates of teen cigarette use have soared.

The FDA has also expressed concern about online sales to teens. In September, the FDA made an unannounced visit to Juul headquarters to look for evidence about the company’s marketing practices. In April, the agency launched what it called a “blitz” to stop retailers from selling vaping products to underage children. And it has warned several online sites about sales.

“We’re also going to restrict online sales only to sites that put in place specific age verification measures and limit access to kids that we are going to specify in guidance,” the official said.

FDA thinking about ban on vaping flavours; Juuls on the radar

Oooh, I will DEFINITELY be keeping my eye on this one. The Food and Drug Administration is apparently mulling the possibility of banning vaping flavours and is reviewing any regulations that are needed for Juuls, as well.

Juuls are a fairly new type of e-cigarette that doesn’t look like an e-cig at all. It looks like a little flash drive that plugs into a laptop computer … and they DO plug into laptop computers in order to recharge.

Anyway, for now the FDA is doing anything, but will be starting an anti-teen vaping initiative in mid-September.

From a USA Today article:

This month, the FDA asked four e-cigarette companies for information about the appeal of their products to youths and said it could take enforcement action against the companies based on what it learns.

In mid-September, the FDA will launch a vaping prevention campaign targeting 10 million youths who vape or are open to trying it, Scott Gottlieb said. It will continue enforcement against retailers that sell to minors.

“We are very concerned that we could be addicting a whole generation of young people,” Gottlieb said. “We only have a narrow window of opportunity to address it.”

Instead of committing to regulate flavor, the FDA solicited more research on flavor’s role. Robin Koval, CEO of the anti-tobacco group Truth Initiative, said there is ample evidence that flavors attract teens.

USA Today interviewed a bunch of young college students who vaped. The interview that really jumped out at me came from Kevin Kee.

From the article:

Kevin Kee, 22, took up vaping to give up smoking when he was starting college but found himself going back to smoking again when he noticed the Juul was “more ingrained in my life than cigarettes ever were.”

“With the Juul, you can vape anywhere, 24/7. I went through pods way quicker – I could go through a pod in one day,” Kee said. “My tolerance was higher, and I didn’t want that kind of life coming out of college.”

Kee said he thinks people who vape to quit smoking are a minority and most people “vape just to vape.” Out of college and working, he’s given up cigarettes and vaping but fears a flavor ban would really hurt others.

“It’s become so ingrained in our culture that banning flavored nicotine would be like the prohibition,” he said.

People vape just to vape, not to quit cigarettes. I’m all for people using ecigs to get off cigarettes. What I’m not all for is kids 14-, 15-, 16-year-olds becoming addicted to nicotine to begin with via ecigs or Juuls.

Gottlieb also said that the FDA is keeping an eye on Juuls and for its alleged marketing to teens.

Also from the USA TODAY article regarding the controversial and relatively new Juuls:

A class-action lawsuit filed at U.S. District Court in San Francisco by Juul users alleged that the vaping giant used a two-pronged approach to target adult smokers and teens.

One San Diego teen said she was introduced to Juul by eighth-grade classmates. When her device broke last November, she obtained a warranty replacement through Juul’s website even though she was only 14, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit alleges Juul targeted youth and nonsmokers through ads and “social media blitzes” using “alluring imagery.” Adult smokers were wooed with the promise of a lower or equal amount of nicotine compared with a cigarette even though the product is designed to be more potent and addictive than cigarettes, the lawsuit says.

“On a puff-for-puff basis, this was designed to be more powerful than the gold standard – the cigarette,” said Esfand Nafisi, a San Francisco Bay Area attorney representing Juul users. “That potency was either not disclosed or misrepresented continuously from the time of the company’s inception.”

So, the moral of the story goes … teen smoking has been all but  eliminated, but the struggle continues, and likely will always continue as long as nicotine is a legal product and companies are looking to make billions off of it by attracting new users … be it cigarettes, e-cigs or Juuls. I suspect it will be a never-ending battle.