Tag Archives: Juul

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.