By Chloe Aiello
Juul may have been designed to help smokers quit, but these days it's no better than Big Tobacco, said Truth Initiative's CEO and president Robin Koval.
"I don't think they'll [regulate] voluntarily. I mean there's no real history of the tobacco industry ー and make no mistake, Juul is part of that industry ー being good at self-regulating," Koval told Cheddar on Monday.
Electronic cigarette company Juul Labs, which spun off from marijuana vape company Pax Labs in 2017, makes e-cigarettes originally intended to appeal to adult smokers. But the brand's sleek design, sexy marketing, and fun flavors ー like cucumber, mango and mint ー has made it wildly popular with a different demographic.
A new study commissioned by leading tobacco control organization The Truth Initiative, surveyed more than 13,000 people between the ages of 15 and 34, and found teens 15 to 17 years-old were 16 times more likely to be current Juul users than those surveyed between the ages of 25 and 34.
Of the 15 to 17 year-old and 18 to 21 year-old demographics, 9.5 percent and 11.2 percent reported having used Juul products at least once. More than half of current users aged 15 to 17 were habitual users, reporting three or more days of use in the previous month.
"We got to this point, because this product was very cleverly positioned in a way that made it very attractive to young people," Koval said. "All you have to do is look at the advertising they ran. [It was] filled with young people, bright colors. They had Juul launch parties with young, attractive 20-somethings."
"To me, that says they were not trying to target me, or anyone that looks like me, they were trying to target young people," she added.
The rise in young vapers hasn't gone unnoticed by Food and Drug Administration commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who has threatened to crack down on Juul and other vape companies by removing flavored products from the market and requiring other products to undergo review.
It's not that Gottlieb is anti-vaping. He has previously stated vaping is a healthier alternative to smoking.
But, like Koval, he is concerned about the kids.
"We do believe that there is a strategy for harm reduction, as we would call it for people who have been smoking a long time, who are absolutely unable to quit with other means ー but not for kids," Koval said.
Juul did not immediately respond to Cheddar's request for comment.
For full interview click here.