In a recent strategic move, JUUL decided to pull all of its creme-, fruit-, and berry-flavored pods from shelves, leaving only original-, mint-, and menthol-flavored pods. The move was in response to the backlash the e-cigarette company has received due to its advertising campaigns that seemed to be aimed at minors. The impact the company has had on youth nicotine addiction is undeniable, with 20% of teens admitting to have vaped in the past 30 days, a 78% increase from 2017. Of the high schoolers who do vape, 68% use flavored products, and the flavored options are often listed in the top reasons why youths choose to use e-cigarettes.
Mint and Menthol Are Still Flavors
While pulling their sweeter flavors is commendable, the maintained presence of mint and menthol shows JUUL’s commitment to profits over people. The cut flavors, reminiscent of candies, are the common targets of lawsuits against the company. Due to the presence of menthol cigarettes on the nicotine market, keeping mint and menthol appears to be a balancing act between showing a willingness to be better, and maintaining stock prices. If JUUL can stay within the limits of what tobacco companies are allowed to produce, they can claim they are just as responsible for youth addiction as regular cigarettes.
Tobacco Companies Shouldn’t be the Standard for Healthy Practices
Menthol cigarettes are the most addictive form of tobacco product and considered one of the more dangerous due to the amount of carbon monoxide inhaled by their users. Tobacco companies are already held to high marketing standards, standards e-cigarette companies have yet to be forced into. Cigarette packages are required to display large, unsettling photos of the effects of lunch and mouth cancer, with bold warnings about the effects of smoking and the highly addictive substance contained within.
While e-cigarette and vaping products are also required to display addiction warnings, they have not been subjected to the same advertising bans or packaging requirements. For this reason, they are more liable for getting people addicted to menthol nicotine products that cigarette companies, who are unable to advertise.
JUUL Being Held Accountable
Multiple lawsuits against JUUL are currently underway, with class-action suits already underway. While it’s unlikely that they will have any traction for a number of years (if we’re using the tobacco industry as a comparison, it took over 40 years after proving the dangers of tobacco before states began allowing people to sue companies for Medicaid costs), each step is a step forward.