BMJ’s journal, Tobacco Control, just released a study recommending that the FDA do more to control Juul’s e-cigarette advertising in social media. The study included review of over 15000 posts in a three-month period during 2018. Approximately 30% of reviewed posts were promotional, e.g., leading to Juul purchase locations, and over half the posts included “youth” and “youth lifestyle” themes. Because many of these posts were re-posts or user-generated, rather than ads specifically placed by Juul, the company protested that 99% were third-party content over which Juul had no control. However, the intended goal for social media advertising is to “share” and to inspire creation of third-party user-generated content that is also shared. Juul’s public comments weirdly suggest they don’t understand social media advertising. That is quite unlikely.

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On the heels of San Francisco announcing a full ban on sales of e-cigarettes, the State of Vermont announced its own plan for e-cigarette control — a 92% tax. The bill, supported by Gov. Phil Scott, has passed the house and now moves on to the Senate for approval. The state predicts the increased price will decrease purchases by underage users.

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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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