JUUL has proven to be one of the most controversial and successful vape companies in North America. Amid accusations that the company is directing its marketing at children, JUUL continues to expand into the newly legalized vaping market of Canada.
Who is JUUL? What is JUUL? What is the source of its incredible popularity in the United States and now in Canada? Let’s take a look at the company and just how it was able to explode onto the Canadian vaping scene so quickly.
Who is JUUL?
JUUL is short for JUUL Labs, Inc., a giant in the American e-cig market based out of San Francisco.
The world outside of vaping may have become familiar with the name of the company through its verbization. Juuling became known as a synonym for vaping among teens in the United States because of its popularity among teenagers. No, vaping is not legal for minors in any jurisdiction in America, and this is the main reason that the company seems to be under fire when it is mentioned negatively in the press.
Said fire, however, has done very little to thwart the growth of the actual company. It does help that CEO Kevin Burns knows exactly how to handle the press. His statement after JUUL came into the spotlight for allegedly marketing to children was enough to keep the company in the good graces of public opinion:
“Under age use of JUUL products is never acceptable. However, neither is it acceptable for those of us at Juul to not fully commit ourselves to helping the 38 million smokers in the U.S. and the one billion smokers globally when we believe we have the ability, technology and sheer wherewithal to achieve this goal.”
According to some industry data, JUUL has usurped more than 70 percent of the e-cigarette market in the United States, making it by far the most popular brand of vape and e-cigarette on the market. Some estimates have the JUUL total market value at well above US $16 billion.
The Controversy – Marketing to Minors?
Maura Healey, the current Attorney General of Massachusetts, recently began an investigation into JUUL. Online retailers of JUUL products are also being investigated for their marketing techniques. The concern is that the company is actively pursuing minors as a core customer base.
Although online retailers are prohibited from selling vaping and smoking paraphernalia to children, there is really no system in place to stop minors from purchasing vapes or e-cigarettes online. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is conducting another separate ongoing investigation since April for generally the same reasons. Spokespersons from the FDA have stated that they are actively looking to crack down on the sale of e-cigs in general and JUUL in particular to minors both online and in traditional retail.
The JUUL company maintains that its product is intended solely for adult smokers. The company has stated that it is putting US $30 million over the next three years to research and educate communities about the dangers of teen smoking. It also defends itself by saying that its proprietary e-commerce location employees age verification technology to ensure that underage users cannot access its products. JUUL also says that it sends secret shoppers to its retail locations to ensure compliance with the law there as well.
However, opponents of JUUL ads have more than a few points on their side. Some JUUL opponents point to the sweeter flavor of vapes as a natural attractant for younger people. Teenagers have more options with vapes than they do with cigarettes, and the fruity choices certainly provide another choice for kids who would normally be averse to the bitterness and smokiness of traditional smokes.
Talking to Teens About JUUL
Some teens blame the popularity of JUUL on the fact that they look like USB chargers. The similarity to a product that is used in school makes it easier to hide from teachers. Others say that the sleek look and feel of the packaging and the product is what draws their social circles to it. Still others say that easy access is the culprit – JUUL vapes are relatively simple to obtain online, where no one apparently checks for age.
Many teens like to perform “smoke tricks” with JUUL to impress their friends. The relatively large amount of smoke produced by the vape makes it easy to perform parlor tricks that other young people apparently find impressive.
Experts say that the reason for addiction is much less esoteric. Despite all of the differences between smoking and vaping, the core purpose of both activities is the same – to ingest nicotine. Nicotine is the active ingredient in traditional cigarettes, and it is the active ingredient in JUUL vapes as well. Depending on how the vape is smoked, actually, the JUUL can deliver higher amounts and concentrations of nicotine to a user than a traditional cigarette can.
Many underage smokers have friends or family members who are of age that can easily obtain vapes. These older relatives or friends may underestimate the addictive power of vape or the undesirable health effects. Vapes have a public image of being cleaner than cigarettes, and although they are, the product is not necessarily healthy for growing teens. The Canadian government notes that vaping is a good alternative to smoking, but it does say that quitting cold turkey is still the preferable option.
However, the high is shorter, creating a need to do more in a shorter period of time. This higher frequency of intake can lead to higher bouts of addiction than regular cigarettes. Peer pressure also plays a factor. The “cool” kids in school are definitely vaping, influencing others in their social circles to take up the practice even if they do not necessarily want to.
JUUL Ads and Social Media
A great deal of the controversy about marketing to minors began when the company started putting its ads on social media sites frequented by minors. These social media sites include Facebook, Twitter and many smaller niche sites that cater specifically to teenagers and young adults.
One of the trademarks of JUUL ads is color and style. Although this does not implicate the company as marketing to minors (color and style are generally two trademarks of all successful ads), the way that JUUL incorporated young looking spokespeople in fashions and social situations that seem directed at teenagers was a concern for some authorities.
Authorities are also concerned about addictive power of nicotine. Compared to smoking, vaping has less toxic chemicals and substances. However, the nicotinic causes the high is the same in both smoking mechanisms. Many medical professionals say that vaping can be just as addictive as smoking, especially for teenagers.
Opponents of underage vaping also point to news reports as pseudo-advertisements that get in front of kids and cause them to vape. Even if advertisements were completely banned in Canada, these people say, news reports of kids smoking vapes would still influence minors in Canada to take on the practice. As news, the reports would be available commercially, and the information would become unable to be censored as an advertisement.
Why is JUUL So Popular?
In general, vaping is considered a healthier alternative to smoking by many health experts. Vaping has also gained considerable popularity among Millennials in the United States because of its accessibility.
Although vaping may be healthier than smoking, it still delivers the high based from nicotine that serves as the main attraction for many smokers. Many vapers actually say that vaping delivers a more consistent and intense high while retaining the purity of the chemicals for a healthier experience.
JUUL Pods in Canada
The JUUL Canada expansion was no accident. The company has been looking to go international for quite some time, making forays into Israel and the United Kingdom it ran into a bit of opposition in Israel, although the company still has a huge presence in the country.
The JUUL is so popular that in Canada it has already spawned lines of compatible products. For instance, Eonsmoke pods in Canada have gained popularity because of their similarities to the JUUL.
These international expansion efforts have enticed investors. Recently, Bloomberg reported that the company was in the middle of successfully funding a US $1.2 billion financing round that would increase the company value to at least US $15 billion.
JUUL and Vaping Laws in Canada and the United States
According to experts, the doors to Canada were actually opened to JUUL in the wake of a new vape Canada law. The law was meant to protect minors from vaping while allowing adults the privilege. Bill S-5 in Canada legalized all sales of vapes and vaping products. The bill also amended the Tobacco Act of 1997 and the Nonsmokers Health Act of 1988, setting the tone for how both tobacco and vaping products can be marketed. The Canadian government also put forth official statements praising vaping as a healthy alternative to smoking, going so far as to say this on its website.
However, the law has actually made vapes easier to get for minors. As mentioned before, many underage smokers have older friends or family members. When it becomes easier for these older relatives and acquaintances to get vapes, it becomes easier for minors to get them as well.
JUUL announced its movement into Canada within a week of the Bill S-5 passing. The company stated that any products that had been sold in the country beforehand were neither sanctioned nor endorsed by JUUL.
JUUL itself is looking to make its mark on the record so that it has public legal action on the books. The company went so far as to file a grievance with the United States International Trade Commission against third party flavor pod suppliers. These suppliers, which create flavor pods that are compatible with JUUL products, greatly expand the number of flavors that vapers have to choose from when they use JUUL. JUUL Labs has its own flavor pod suppliers in house, but it is limited to six flavors – cucumber, vanilla, mint, mango, fruit and Virginia tobacco.
JUUL also announced an age tracking system that will be built into its vaping system. Somehow, this device will be able to detect the age of the user. It works off of the same technology that allows the device to monitor the nicotine intake of the user, and the redesigned option has been available in Europe for quite some time, apparently. At the same time, JUUL stated that it would not be advertising its products online anymore, removing its brand completely from social media. The company said that it would take a stance in future advertisements to position JUUL specifically as a tool for use by former smokers to quit smoking.
Experts say that the expansion of flavor pods give vapes an undeniable advantage over cigarettes. In Canada, flavored cigarettes are actually banned in a move that ironically was done in part to curb underage smoking. The move was seen as a success, but new vaping flavors are filling this hole in the market to the detriment of underage smoking opponents.
Vape advertisements do not have to follow the laws that limit cigarette advertising to minors. Cigarettes in Canada are not allowed to be visible in places where minors frequent, but vapes are. Cigarettes cannot be advertised in large public forums, but vapes still can. As a result, vapes are advertised quite openly, including advertisements on the same panels that are hiding packages of cigarettes behind them.
The Canadian Vaping Association
In the face of all these accusations, the Canadian Vaping Association seems to be fighting on the side of JUUL and other vaping companies. So far, no relationship between the Canadian Vaping Association (CVA) and JUUL has been uncovered, although no major investigation has taken place.
The CVA holds that the rules from the Canadian government that are binding vapes are already enough. They reject evidence that minors vaping is on the rise in the United States, stating cultural differences.