The news this week is all about JUUL and the FDA seizing yet more of their marketing information. 

According to the Washington Post they took over 1000 pages of documents. Why have they done this?  Allegedly because of a new CDC report. The CDC  have written that JUUL have experienced phenomenal growth in the year 2016 – 2017, going from 2.2 million devices sold, to over 16.2 million.   This is a 641% increase in sales. The CDC state that no one company dominated the market in 2013, but JUUL are, in 2018 the dominant force.  The CDC report states: “A recent analysis found that 74 percent of youth who used JUUL reported obtaining the device from a physical retail store, and about half reported obtaining the device from a social source such as a friend or family member.” But 74% of how many teens? 74% sounds huge, but is it?   Is it 74% of 16.2 million?  

The Washington Times stated, “People familiar with the situation say the data shows a 75 percent increase in youth use of e-cigarettes this year, compared to last year. The information comes from the National Youth Tobacco Survey, which is conducted by the FDA and the CDC.”

Please note the caveats in that paragraph – people say, and the information reportedly comes from.

We need all the statistics to know if this huge increase of sales is in fact down to teens vaping.  The reports for teen vaping from last year do not, in anyway shape or form show an epidemic. To then say, “well this company saw phenomenal growth – so that must mean the teens are buying them” doesn’t add up without the evidence. We are yet to see the evidence of this teen epidemic. Due to this CDC report, there are now even more stringent calls for banning e -liquid flavors, as this is ‘believed’ by those that do not understand vaping to be the lure for the teens. One journalist has described the template for writing about JUUL as this: “There is a clear template by now for writing fear-mongering articles about the company. It goes something like this: developing teen brains and nicotine; flavors (candy, fruit); “discreet” USB design;“juuling” as a verb; #juul; bigger dose of nicotine; “kids”; “epidemic.”

In a statement  on Tuesday, Juul Lab’s chief executive Kevin Burns said that the company is “committed to preventing underage use, and we want to engage with FDA, lawmakers, public health advocates and others to keep Juul out of the hands of young people.” Burns added that last week’s meetings with the FDA “gave us the opportunity to provide information about our business from our marketing practices to our industry-leading online age-verification protocols to our youth prevention efforts. It was a constructive and transparent dialogue.”

As we have written about before, JUUL are very much in the FDA sights, and have been in dialogue with the FDA for some time. They are one of the five e-cigarette companies to have to respond within 60 days to explain how the industry is going to do what the FDA and tobacco control have failed to do for decades, which is to prevent the youth uptake of nicotine products. JUUL have in the meantime asked the regulators to stop 18 companies from producing clones of their devices. “This is Juul's latest attempt to control a proliferation of lookalike products that have entered the market since it launched its e-cigarette 2015. In August, Juul filed trademark lawsuits against 30 Chinese companies for selling counterfeit products on eBay.The move comes as Juul tries to convince regulators it can control the surge in teens using its products.”

Meanwhile, in the same week we have a release from experts to say don’t treat e cigarettes as if they are cigarettes.

The opening statement in their paper is unequivocal: "Comparing cigarettes to e-cigarettes can give us a false sense of what dangers exist because it misses the gap in understanding how people use them and how they can make people dependent," said first author Matthew Olonoff, a Ph.D. student at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "Before we start making policy changes, such as controlling nicotine or flavor options in e-cigarettes, we need to better understand what role these unique characteristics have."

Exactly.

They end their paper by stating: "We've done so much to convince our youth that cigarettes and smoking are bad, and overall, it's been a relatively successful campaign when you look at how much smoking has decreased and continued to decrease," Olonoff said. "If teens use the device and they see it differently than the rest of the nicotine products, the researchers should adopt a different philosophical belief, too."

We are left this week wondering about the FDA and CDC and the as yet unpublished stats to show that it is indeed teens that are buying all these products, because as we all know, vaping is not smoking. There is minimal brand loyalty, people shop around for e-liquids and devices, and most vapers have more than one device in their collection. 

So perhaps that 600% increase could involve a few million adults as well?