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Domenic B. Sanginiti, Jr. is an associate and member of the Accident & Personal Injury Group.

San Francisco made a bold move this week, voting to ban the sale and delivery of Juul and other e-cigarettes in its city. The mayor of San Francisco is expected to sign the proposed ban, which would then take effect in 2020. San Francisco is the first city in the U.S. to embrace serious regulation of e-cigarettes, which has been compared to the Big Tobacco regulation fights of the not-so-distant past.

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Just like the traditional tobacco industry, Juul has started to issue grants to study the effects of e-cigarettes on users. Back in the bad, old tobacco days, almost all research was funded by tobacco companies through the Council for Tobacco Research (CTR) and the Center for Indoor Air Research (CIAR). Both companies were included in fraud cases against the industry. After a settlement in 1998, the tobacco industry started funding private groups. Much of that funding was undisclosed in study results, suggesting there might be a conflict of interest.

So…is Juul, a company heavily funded by big tobacco, the same? Or is this highly successful, private interest, for-profit company an altruistic anomaly?


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In a time when most companies are moving sales to the internet, Juul is apparently exploring opening brick and mortar stores to sell its controversial e-cigarette products. Valued at approximately $38 billion (since investment from big tobacco company, Altria), Juul can afford to test new distribution outlets. The first launches are rumored to open in Texas and South Korea.

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Juul, the “cool” e-cigarette manufacturer, is facing a class action lawsuit alleging practices that mirror those of the traditional tobacco industry. The suit alleges Juul purposely designed a highly addictive product, concealed the addictive nature of the product, and lured teen users with advertising similar to the type banned for the tobacco industry. San Francisco U.S. District Judge William Orrick III approved the case to go forward to court.

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Juul sells e-cigarette liquid pods with very high levels of nicotine compared to competitors. This has brought increased scrutiny from the FDA and interest from researchers trying to evaluate the harmful effects of the “combustible” cigarette alternative.

A recent study by Stanford referred to the current e-cigarette market as “a nicotine arms race” as more and more competitors ratchet up e-cigarette nicotine levels to try to compete with Juul. Due to its high nicotine content, several lawsuits have been filed claiming the product was responsible for causing nicotine addiction.


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As shared many times in the past, tobacco companies own a large percentage of e-cigarette companies. Recently “Big Tobacco” company Altria acquired a $12.8 Billion stake in Juul, the cool-looking vaping device that now dominates the e-cigarette market.

The FDA voiced concerns that the investment contradicts commitments from both companies to address an epidemic of youth vaping. Juul has been under scrutiny, not only for its advertising and social media campaigns, but also because its liquids have historically had nicotine levels higher than other products.


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Desperate to shatter Juul’s recently-acquired, 70% dominance over the e-cigarette industry, competitors are increasing nicotine levels in their e-cigarette liquid pods. That does not bode well for the new generation of e-cigarette nicotine addicts and has generated what Stanford researchers have coined, “a nicotine arms race.”

Juul launched its e-cigarette officially in 2015 and has rapidly take over the market, due to a number of factors. Juul e-cigarettes present a subtle, USB-style design, with a patented “nicotine salts” delivery system that promises to deliver high levels of nicotine without a harsh inhaling experience. Equally effective is their clever advertising (See Stanford analysis of Juul advertising since inception).


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e-cigarette explosionA 24-year old man was tragically killed when an e-cigarette exploded, severing his carotid artery. The official cause of death was from a stroke caused by “penetrating trauma from exploding vaporizer pen.”

William Brown, known as “Eric” to family and friends, was running errands when the incident occurred. He was rushed to the hospital but died two days later from complications from the e-cigarette injury. It has not been reported which brand of e-cigarette Eric was using at the time of the incident.

It was only nine months ago that 38-year old Tallmadge D’Elia died of a projectile wound to the head from an exploding e-cigarette. The manufacturer of the e-cigarette he was using was contacted by an ABC affiliate station, WFTS who reported this response: “a representative from Smok-E Mountain tells us their devices do not explode, instead telling us it is likely an atomizer (the part a person inserts into their mouth) or a battery issue.”


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FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced plans to “restrict” sales locations for flavored e-cigarettes that appeal to youth. The restriction, which falls far short of a ban, will require sales to take place only in “age-restricted in-person locations and, if sold online, under heightened practices for age verification.”

The restriction does not apply to menthol, mint, or tobacco flavors because, ostensibly, these appeal in greater percentages to adults. Even so, Gottlieb cites that 20% of kids, roughly 720,000, choose menthol flavoring for e-cigarettes and 54% of minors who smoke combustible cigarettes choose menthol as well. A full ban against similar flavorings, i.e., those that appeal to youth and young adults, was issued for tobacco cigarettes in 2009.


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Did you know JUUL implemented a vaping prevention program targeted for use in schools? JUUL is the rapid-rise vaping company that makes e-cigarettes that look like USB units, and vaping liquids with high concentrations of nicotine. It has suffered heavy criticism for its appeal to underage youth and is being investigated by the FDA for targeting underage users in its advertising.

The vaping prevention program, which was created at the start of JUUL’s commercial launch in 2015, has also faced criticism, most recently in an article in the Journal of Adolescent Health.


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