“We’re not a lifestyle brand, we’re a functional product. We don’t want the product to seem cool.”
Kevin Burns, CEO, Juul Labs Inc
Juul Labs want their device to be considered functional not ‘cool’
The redesigned Juul, initially designed to track former smokers’ nicotine intake, could verify a user’s age to prevent minors from illegal inhalation, CEO Kevin Burns said. The company has been criticized by health and school officials who claim it promotes addiction among the 15 to 24 year olds who make up the bulk of its demographic.
The company also shelved plans to release 55 new flavors to mitigate the backlash that it markets the device to underage users, Bloomberg reported. Juul detractors often criticize the flavors, like cool mint and mango, for appealing to a younger demographic but discreetly packing the same wallop of nicotine—currently 5 percent per Juul pod—as a pack or two of cigarettes.
More than 2.1 million young people smoked e-cigarettes in 2017, the Food and Drug Administration reported, a market that Juul dominates with more than 70 percent market share.
The FDA gained the authority to regulate the e-cigarettes in 2016, just one year after the Juul launched, which effectively blocked future Juul designs like its Bluetooth-linked vape, from sale in the U.S.
Its ubiquity has made Juul Labs the target of a slew of lawsuits that allege the company surreptitiously markets to underage users and promotes addiction. A plaintiff in one class action suit, a San Diego mother, told the Washington Post her teenage son was “hysterical” when he lost what she thought was a flash drive.
FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb spearheaded a crusade against e-cigarettes and Juul specifically in April, cracking down on vape shops and convenience stores like 7-Eleven in April to prevent underage sales. Though the products don’t contain carcinogenic tobacco, the nicotine can “rewire” adolescents’ brains to fall prey to future addiction, he said in a June statement.
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