The number of kids becoming addicted to nicotine via e-cigs like Juul is a cause of concern for parents and government agencies alike. (Image via Learning Liftoff)
Thoughts x

Unless kids can’t have it, no one can. 

At this point, I don’t think I need to explain what a Juul is. We’ve all seen the slender, sleek, flashdrive-esque e-cigarettes that both kids and adults alike carry around in their backpacks, in their jeans pockets, in the palms of their hands. They’re easy to hide, easy to use and easy to buy. This makes them easily accessible to minors who can sneak them into school and illegally purchase them from smoke shops and retailers.

Earlier this week, a college student went viral for responding to a class creative writing prompt with a story about the kid next to her who was charging his Juul in class.

“I arrive at my English class… I take out a small black plastic piece and plug it into my computer. I feel safe again. The red turns back to green. The love of my life, my rock, my world, my everything, my Juul, is charged.”

As amusing as the story is, if that kid is under 21 years old it means he purchased the Juul illegally. According to the FDA, the trend of minors smoking e-cigs has become an “epidemic.” Juuls and similar products were originally designed to curb adult smoking habits, but have taken on an entirely different narrative; they are now introducing younger and younger college and high school students to nicotine addiction. 

In an open letter released on Wednesday, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced plans for a crackdown on underage Juul use that could ultimately result in a ban on e-cigs. 

“While we remain committed to advancing policies that promote the potential of e-cigarettes to help adult smokers move away from combustible cigarettes, that work can’t come at the expense of kids. We cannot allow a whole new generation to become addicted to nicotine,” Gottlieb wrote in the letter.

“In enabling a path for e-cigarettes to offer a potentially lower risk alternative for adult smokers, we won’t allow the current trends in youth access and use to continue, even if it means putting limits in place that reduce adult uptake of these products.”

In addition to the letter, the FDA sent warnings to 1,300 retailers and five e-cigarette manufacturers stating that, if they couldn’t demonstrate their efforts to halt the sale of e-cigs to minors within the next 60 days, the bulk of flavored products could be taken off the market. 

So even if you managed to get your hands on a Juul, no more creme brûlée pods for you. 

“Inevitably what we are going to have to contemplate are actions that may narrow the off-ramp for adults who see e-cigarettes as a viable alternative to combustible tobacco in order to close the on ramp for kids,” Dr. Gottlieb said. “It’s an unfortunate trade-off.”

This is risky business for Juul Labs, who make a ton of money off the sale of their products to underage kids. They’ve been accused time and again of purposefully designing the Juul and its flavors to appeal to high school students. 

In the face of this new predicament, however, Juul is being extremely accommodating.

“Juul Labs will work proactively with F.D.A. in response to its request. We are committed to preventing underage use of our product, and we want to be part of the solution in keeping e-cigarettes out of the hands of young people.”

Try not to get too upset, though. I promise that a real mango tastes better than mango-flavored nicotine steam. Plus, there’s all that nicotine addiction stuff that you won’t have to worry about anymore. 

Writer Profile

Cameron Andersen

New York University
Cultural Anthropology and Gender & Sexuality

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