Last week, JUUL released a statement of intent to pull all mint JUUL pods from the market. This was in response to newly released data from the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey. This prompt decision was heralded in before the FDA’s official ban on these ‘fun’ flavors that target underage clientele.
This decision began to unfold with the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey’s data release. It stated there has been a massive upswing of individuals in middle and high school partaking in vaping. Over 5 million teens reported vaping in the past 30 days, 1 million of which placed themselves in the “vape-everyday” category.
Before this move, JUUL has done its best to be preemptive in removing its more childish flavors. The decision to add mint to the list leaves only three JUUL flavors left on the market: Tobacco, Virginia Tobacco (which is the most country thing I’ve ever heard), and menthol.
This will place the mint on the ban list next to all their fruity flavors, such as crème, mango, cucumber, and…. Fruit? They had a flavor just named “fruit?” What is this, the lunch lady mystery produce flavor?
The reason that JUULis being targeted by these accusations is due to their incredibly popularity; “JUUL” is just as namebrand to vaping as “Kleenex” when we refer to tissue paper. The CEO made a statement in response to the new data.
“These results are unacceptable and that is why we must reset the vapor category in the U.S. and earn the trust of society by working cooperatively… to combat underage use.” He regales plans to work with regulars, FDA officials, and other stakeholders from this point going forward. Before JUUL releases any new flavors, they swear to go through the proper channels out of concern for today’s youth.
This is not the first initiative that JUUL has done to assist removing itself from harmful limelight in the public eye. Earlier this year, they released a statement saying they stopped advertising their product in the United States. They also claimed to resist the call to lobbying for flavor guidelines in these recent data drops.
This stands in contrast to the actions of big tobacco companies through the ages. Marlboro remained in the ‘cool’ spotlight for generations due to decades-past actors smoking them on the big screen, often in hospitals (which is one of the stupidest things the Boomer generation thought was okay.)
However, in light of all of this news, and JUUL’s multilateral approach to bettering itself in the public eye, one must ask themself, how beneficial is this decision really?
I understand that JUUL has been targeted with accusations of their product advertisement being centered towards youth. But, this isn’t a new concept. It hasn’t been new for decades. We’ve seen this since Pinnacle Vodka went under fire for making their liquor flavors sound like candy, with appetizing photos of harmless desserts on sapphire bottles.
Also, removing mint is sort of a moot point. Know what’s incredibly similar to mint? Menthol, which JUUL still sells. On a chemical level, mint and menthol are a stone’s throw away from each other. There’s a reason it’s one of the first cigarette flavors invented; minty freshness helps the carcinogens go down easier.
If mint is taken off the market but menthol is not, is it really going to curb teen use of the product? Or are they just going to switch to a nearly identical flavor and adapt to that instead?
A lot of those initiatives don’t really seem all that helpful or paramount to new mentalities. Tobacco has also been off TV advertisement for decades, but that doesn’t really curb their sales amongst the audiences already addicted to their product.
In the tumultuous push towards vaping bans, citing the blackmarket additive Vitamin E as a reason, the CDC has made massive impact on legal availability of these products. However… the dangerous pods were the black market ones, not the legally available ones. Are black market sales of these dangerous pods going to stop out of respect? No. They’re going to continue, possibly flourishing with the lack of competition. But that’s just speculation.
If there’s one thing we’ve seen from companies that have an ‘accidental’ market in youth, it’s this: they don’t want to make less money. So kudos to JUUL for being quick on their feet, but forgive me for not believing the sincerity of another company who’ll have to get creative to continue slinging their poison to audiences.