Juul Labs, the manufacturer behind the country’s most popular e-cigarette product, JUUL, are currently facing scrutiny from lawmakers in the United States House of Representatives for their alleged role in a sharp uptick in e-cigarette usage among young children and teenagers throughout the country.
The company has denied these claims, recently telling the economic subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform that their goal has been to “eliminate cigarettes for good,” and that “Juul Labs isn’t big tobacco,” and that their top priority is “combating underage use.”
But can such a claim, that JUUL should not be compared to the villainous antics of big tobacco companies of the past, be taken for true at face value? After all, Altria – the parent company of Philip Morris USA, which manufacturers the iconic Marlboro brand of cigarettes – purchased a 35 percent stake of Juul Labs in December of 2018.
Experts have also found that Juul Labs has engaged in similar advertising campaigns – like using young, attractive models and marketing exciting names and tasty flavors – as tobacco companies of the past. These tactics, critics and lawmakers allege, have been specially crafted to make the products more attractive to young kids and teenagers. The brand used to have a strong presence on social media, but they have since shut those accounts down under increased scrutiny.
E-cig and JUUL use explodes among youth
According to government estimates and surveys, as many as 20 percent of high school students in America tried an e-cigarette product last year. Their widespread availability, price, variation of flavors and discrete size has made JUUL a common choice for teenagers. Electronic cigarettes also do not produce the pungent smell of a traditional cigarette, so they are able to secretly use them within buildings and in places that otherwise would be impossible with traditional cigarettes.
The prevalence of e-cigarette products pre-date JUUL, as they began to gain popularity in the mid-2000s, however JUUL has been able to capitalize on a market that has grown exponentially faster than scientific data has been able to keep up with.
Research on whether or not electronic cigarettes are less harmful than traditional cigarettes has taken time, and results remain inconclusive. As of this writing, there is no confirmed research to back up the claim that vaporized nicotine products are safer than traditional cigarettes. However, this hasn’t stopped e-cigarette manufacturers like JUUL from claiming their products to be a safer alternative. JUUL even includes testimonials on their website from people who “made the switch” from cigarettes to their products.
What research has shown, however, is that vaporized e-cigarette products contain other health risks that are still not well understood. For example, the chemical diacetyl – which is added to food products such as popcorn for its buttery flavor – is common in e-cigarettes and JUUL products for improving flavor and smoothness of the vaporized product. The problem is that when diacetyl is vaporized, it becomes a harmful respiratory irritant, potentially leading to serious complications such as popcorn lung. Continue reading