When JUUL was first introduced in the United States, its manufacturer was in a race to please investors, like Fidelity Investments. Vaping was so new the product was not restricted by federal regulations. But investors knew it wouldn’t be long before the government got its hands on vape devices and its nicotine-packed e-liquids, according to a New York Times report.
The investors “had yet to see the fruits of their investment, given what the opportunity was,” then-Chief Operating Officer Scott Dunlap told the Times. “They were excited and pushing hard.”
After a series of fits and starts, JUUL Labs had finally worked out the kinks with vape devices. Consumers had been dissatisfied with early vapes either because they didn’t deliver enough nicotine or the tobacco flavor left a bitter taste in their mouths. JUUL’s sleek device used pods that offered as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. The company also rolled out a line of flavored e-liquids, like crème brulee and mango, to mask the bitter tobacco taste.
But it wasn’t so much current smokers who were being drawn – in droves – to JUULing. It was teenagers and young adults – people who had never smoked before. JUUL was aware of its appeal to youth and continued to capitalize on it, using young-looking models and advertising on social media and at concerts. As the number of young people JUULing soon skyrocketed (one in four American high school students and one in 10 middle school students now vape, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) so did JUUL’s profits. JUUL quickly snapped up 75% of the market and raked in more than $1 billion in sales in 2018 – plenty to appease its investors.
And while the company claims its primary goal was to provide a safer alternative to cigarette smokers, last December JUUL sold a 35 percent stake to tobacco giant Altria for $12.8 billion. According to the Times, most of that money went to line the pockets of JUUL executives and investors. As part of the deal, Altria said it will distribute JUUL through its vast channels. After four years, Altria has the option to take over JUUL entirely.
JUUL created a public health crisis by hooking an entire generation under the guise to provide smokers with a safer alternative to cigarette smoking. But now, the company’s future is in the hands of Big Tobacco.
Beasley Allen lawyers Joseph VanZandt and Sydney Everett, together with Mass Torts Section Head Andy Birchfield, are currently representing several individuals who are suing the top U.S. vape maker JUUL for the negative impact its products have had on their lives. On Oct. 7 they also filed lawsuits on behalf of school districts in three states, which seek to protect students and recover resources spent fighting the vaping epidemic.