The FDA seeks to burn JUUL at the stake after launching witch hunt

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of teenagers using cigarettes drops each year in the United States. However, the usage rate of electronic cigarettes among teens, such as the extremely popular JUUL, is continuing to rise.

JUUL was released in 2015 and immediately rose to popularity due to its ability in helping adults quit smoking. However, social media trends such as #DoItForJuul quickly grabbed the attention of minors to a point where it is almost impossible to walk past a high school without seeing teens using the device with its USB-like aesthetic.

With JUUL, students now have the ability to smoke inside of their high schools without being detected by the administration. If they are caught, many teachers turn a blind eye, even when policy states they are to confiscate the device and issue detention.

The rising smoking statistics have recently caught the eye of the Food and Drug Administration. JUUL has come under scrutiny in the past, causing it to stop using marketing campaigns that could be misconstrued as being aimed at children and change the look of its packaging. JUUl now has much more prominent warning labels displaying the nicotine levels in each JUUL pod.

In this new investigation involving JUUL and four other major tobacco companies, if the companies don’t do something to halt sales to minors, its products will be removed from the market.

This war the FDA has started is not simply targeting the major corporations, but also the local retailers selling to teenagers. The FDA has already issued warnings to 7-Elevens and Walgreens, among others, and issued over 100 fines for selling tobacco products to people under the age of 21.

The question for the FDA is, how far is too far?

Teenagers have been smoking for as long as these products have been on the market, and by smoking electronic cigarettes, they are inhaling fewer chemicals than if they were to smoke traditional cigarettes.

Teen smokers are outraged by this investigation, many saying that they know the risks and whether or not they smoke is their decision, not the government’s.

The sad truth is that many of these students are already addicted to the nicotine in JUUL pods. Removing it from the market at this point will not be a nationwide cure at all. In fact, it could make the problem even worse.

While JUUL is certainly dominating the e-cigarette market, it is not the only product of this nature. More and more copycat companies have been flooding the market with similar products.

Eliminating JUUL will cause students already using the product to switch to an e-cigarette alternative not yet under scrutiny, such as Myle or another more harmful, traditional cigarette.

The FDA is looking for someone to blame when there is no one to blame but the teenagers making a conscious choice for themselves. JUUL’s marketing is not intentionally targeting minors. The company’s website states very clearly that it was developed as an “adult alternative” to smoking.

The founders of the company, former smokers themselves, have stated they developed JUUL because they wanted to end traditional cigarette smoking. The flavors, such as mint, mango and crème brûlée, that the FDA is threatening to remove are the flavors that are tempting adult smokers to make the switch from traditional cigarettes to electronic ones.

While eliminating these flavors may discourage small number of  teen smokers, it will also cause fewer of the 1 billion adult smokers to want to make the switch, putting them at a significantly higher risk of dealing with the negative health effects associated with smoking.

JUUL is doing a good job in attempting to eliminate traditional cigarette use, and the company states very plainly that it does not want to be “part of a problem to attract youth, never smokers, or former smokers to nicotine products.”

It is not JUUL's fault if teenagers are attracted to their product. Its social media marketing only depicts adults of appropriate age, its marketing campaigns always have a nicotine health warning and it ensures that the placement of its products in third-party vendors is designed to limit underage exposure.

That being said, JUUL is trying to do what it can to eliminate teen usage of it product, so this FDA witch hunt is frankly uncalled for.

-Deanna Pisacreta

Journalism 20