JUUL e-cigarettes gain popularity among youth, but awareness of nicotine presence remains low
Since 2016, the e-cigarette brand JUUL has surged in popularity among young people and as of April 2018 has taken more than half of the e-cigarette market share. A new Truth Initiative study published today in Tobacco Control reveals that while many young people are aware of JUUL, there is low awareness that the product always contains the addictive chemical nicotine. For example:
- Twenty-five percent of survey respondents aged 15-24 recognized a JUUL e-cigarette device when shown a photo of the product.
- Among those who recognized JUUL, 25 percent reported that use of this product is called "JUULing," indicating that this product is so distinctive, it is perceived as its own category.
- Sixty-three percent of JUUL users did not know that this product always contains nicotine.
Promoted as a “satisfying alternative to cigarettes,” JUUL puts a new generation of youth at risk of nicotine dependence and future cigarette use. The prevalence and popularity of these high potency nicotine delivery devices (one JUUL cartridge has nicotine levels equal to a pack of cigarettes) raise concerns about the lack of education and regulation of e-cigarette products.
Almost all smokers (98 percent) start by the age of 26, with nearly nine out of 10 adult smokers starting by the age of 18. While e-cigarettes may be less harmful than combustible tobacco products — which remain the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the country — e-cigarettes are shown to strongly increase the likelihood of smoking cigarettes among young people. A December 2017 study by the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, published in the American Journal of Medicine, found that young adults who use e-cigarettes are more than four times as likely to begin smoking tobacco cigarettes within 18 months as their peers who do not vape.
“It is no wonder that JUUL e-cigarettes have rapidly caught on with youth — they look like a sleek USB flash drive, are easily concealed, and come in youth appealing flavors like mint, mango and crème brulee,” said Robin Koval, CEO and President of Truth Initiative. “Unfortunately, young people are unaware that JUUL packs a powerful nicotine punch with a single cartridge equal to an entire pack of cigarettes. This escalates the urgency for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation and public education regarding the risks for young people.”
The findings of the new Truth Initiative study demonstrate the need for FDA regulation, as well as education among teens and their parents on the risks of products like JUUL. While the FDA has announced efforts to reduce the addictiveness and appeal of combustible tobacco products, the delay in premarket review for e-cigarettes and other novel products deprives the public of critical information needed to make informed choices, contributes to confusion among smokers about the quality and safety of devices and permits the proliferation of products that are highly appealing to youth.
The FDA has promised to mitigate these risks through product standards; however, the public has yet to see concrete proposals. Due to this delay in action, Truth Initiative and six other public health and medical groups have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the FDA’s decision to allow e-cigarettes to avoid full regulatory compliance until 2022 – a full four years past the original deadline and 13 years since the FDA was given authority over tobacco products in the United States. Said another way, an entire generation of young people will enter and leave their teens without proper oversight of these products.