The Attorney General of Massachusetts is currently investigating Juul
It seems like every week that a new government official is questioning the role vaping plays in society. These concerns range from questions of effect on health to general legality. But one of the most common issues taken up by politicians regards the impact of e-cigarettes on teens. The usual claim is that vaping is attracting non-smoking teens to a life of not only vaping but eventual smoking as well. Luckily the large-scale evidence we have on the topic indicates that these concerns are entirely overblown. In fact, a survey of over 60,000 teens conducted by Action on Smoking and Health found that only between 0.1% and 0.5% of non-smoking teens ever start vaping regularly.
Despite these numbers, the vaping industry continues to take a ton of heat from legislators who are quick to jump on a hot-button topic. The maker of the insanely popular Juul cig-a-likes, Juul Labs, bear the brunt of the force from politicians on this witch hunt. As such they’ve had to contend with and adjust to a growing amount of turmoil this year from both the private and public sectors. The latest addition to this wave of controversy is reports that the Attorney General of Massachusetts is investigating Juul Labs for “getting kids to start vaping.”
According to Maura Healey, AG for Massachusetts, her investigation is based on the fact “way too much of their product is ending up in the hands of young people and ending up in schools.” As part of her investigation she wants to know if Juul Labs is currently tracking the underage use of their products, and if so, is it aimed at improving their advertising and market share in the future. Healey is convinced that Juul Labs is up to no good, saying “This isn’t about getting adults to stop smoking cigarettes. This is about getting kids to start vaping… They’re engaged in an effort to get kids addicted, to get kids hooked, so that they’ll have customers for the rest of their lives.”
These claims could mean big trouble for not only Juul but the vaping industry as a whole. The longer government officials deny the harm reduction and smoking cessation value of vaping, the more difficult it becomes to educate people about the actual research. For instance, we’ve known since at least 2015 thanks to Public Health England that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking. Not only that but research published last fall in the Journal of Aerosol Science found that the excess lifetime cancer risk of a smoker is over 57,000 times higher than a demographically similar vaper. As smoking continues to be the leading cause of preventable death and disease across the globe, Healey would still have all of this value swept under the rug in favor of “saving” the 0.1% to 0.5% who have never even been shown to eventually turn into smokers.
Juul Labs Tumultuous Year
As mentioned above, Juul Labs has been facing an increasing amount of PR trouble over the last year. The uber-successful company currently accounts for over two-thirds of the cig-a-like market, dwarfing even their next closest competitors. But they aren’t trying to fight most claims against them. In fact, they’ve listened to criticism and taken several steps to improve their overall strategy with a focus on smoking cessation help. This started with them dedicating $30 million over three years to fund independent peer-reviewed research on the short and long-term effects of vaping on humans.
They then turned their attention to concerns about teenage usage by funding an advertising campaign aimed at teaching parents about their devices and how to tell if their child is trying to hide it from them. They also refocused their social media, removing all ads that use models or other paid actors to endorse the product. Instead, they are now exclusively using real people who have successfully quit smoking thanks to Juul. Not only that but according to Juul Labs they’ve already reported well over 10,000 underage online sales since the year began.
While Maura Healey is on her crusade against Juul, we can take solace in the fact that not all high-level government officials are so misguided. For example, the Attorney General for Iowa, Tom Miller, is currently working with public health experts to guide the FDA away from implementing an e-liquid flavor ban. Unfortunately, for now, the majority of people still side with AG Healey on the risk that e-cigarettes pose. Polls have indicated that only around 13% of adults understand that vaping is much safer than smoking, while 26% believe vaping is just as, if not more, dangerous than tobacco.
Despite the troubling figures, it’s important to remember that the evidence is continually coming down in favor of vaping and its utility, so hopefully, it’s only a matter of time. But if we genuinely want to live in a smoke-free world, we must use all of the best tools we have at our disposal, which includes vaporizers. So it’s up to us to encourage our representatives to take a look at the evidence for themselves and reconsider their stance on e-cigarettes.
Do you think Juul Labs is intentionally targeting teens? Why do you think that so many politicians are convinced they do? What do you think is the best way to improve the public perception of vaping? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.