From Mango Pods to Entirely Banned: The FDA’s Obsession with JUUL has Ended
By now I am sure everyone and their mother knows what a Juul is. For me, my first introduction to Juul was in high school when students would go to the bathroom to smoke, inevitably creating memes and phrases like “who put a toilet and sink in the Juul room?” Juul’s look like a flash drive, used to smell like mango, and it is now on the chopping block by the Biden administration largely due to the Cancer Moonshot initiative, a plan which aims to reduce the cancer death rate by at least 50% over the next 25 years. For context on how exactly Juul comes into play here, some context needs to be provided about just how an e-cigarette company is now being told by the FDA that they can no longer sell in the United States market.
Juul Labs, Inc. was founded in 2017 when it spun off from Pax Labs. After a large social media campaign in 2017, Juul had a market share of 72% as of September 2018, an impressive feat from a company that seemingly came out of nowhere. This aggressive marketing strategy was soon met with resistance and investigations by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), claiming that the company bought advertising on multiple social media platforms with a dominate presence of teenagers. Following the FDA investigation, Juul voluntarily pulled certain flavored pods off the market to not entice teenagers or underage consumption, notably mango. Now, as of June 23rd, 2022, the FDA has ordered Juul to discontinue selling its products in the United States, which was met by the federal appeals court approval of delaying the FDA’s ban of Juul.
Now, how did this happen? It’s due in part to a conglomerate of issues revolving Juul’s past and what the government wants to do with nicotine products in the future. A part of the Cancer Moonshine initiative is reducing nicotine in cigarettes to non-addictive levels in an effort to prevent future generations from becoming addicted to cigarettes, which sounds great in theory, but a black market is sure to appear for people wanting the “good” product with 5% nicotine, the standard amount in cigarettes currently. Additionally, the FDA is pursuing the total ban of menthol flavored cigarettes and vaping products, noting how the cooling sensation eases throat irritation, making them more appealing to people who have never smoked before. Studies have shown that menthols are significantly harder to quit and may pose a greater health risk compared to traditional cigarettes. Cigarette makers have since disputed the FDA’s claims about menthols. Juul’s main problem: the FDA said the company did not submit sufficient evidence that its devices are safe. Yet, me, as a college student, sees a new brand of e-cigarettes coming seemingly out of the blue every month with whacky flavors like banana bread, arctic snow, and strawberry guava that are definitely regulated by the government.
The FDA has stated that using the product itself has not presented a hazard but due to the lack of evidence submitted by Juul themselves, the FDA acted. Keep in mind, the report Juul submitted to the FDA for just two flavors – menthol and Virginia Tobacco – in 3% and 5% nicotine strengths, amounted to more than 125,000 pages. 125,000 pages.
For many people, e-cigarettes were a great way to slowly ween off of nicotine as for many smokers, the simple inhaling act was the desired action that often times caused relapsing, not necessarily the nicotine itself, although the addictive chemical is of course a factor. With this proposed ban, consumers will simply move to the next new e-cigarette that comes out on the market, but this does bring up concerns with products like marijuana pens and box modes, two products that seemingly are not getting touched at all, although their consequences and subsequent addiction will result in more people getting hooked.
Juul’s fall from grace as the superior e-cigarette has seemingly come to an end, but this won’t stop people on eBay from price gouging menthol Juul pods for three times the retail price. Who knows, maybe the government will ban actual cigarettes one day once the lobby and tax money stops flowing in as much as they want it to.