Most minors hooked on JUUL are now using mint-flavored pods after the San Francisco vape maker pulled its sweeter flavors from retail stores and online merchants, new research shows.

Mint is now the top-selling JUUL flavor in the U.S. The company, which controls the lion’s share of the youth vaping market, continues to sell pods in mint, menthol, and tobacco flavors.

But according to two studies published Nov. 5 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the availability of fewer vape flavors does not compute to less teen vaping. In fact, the studies cite U.S. government research that shows the alarming epidemic of adolescent vaping shows no signs of slowing down.

According to the latest government research, 27.5% of high school students and 11.5% of middle school students vape. In actual numbers, this means that the number of U.S. kids who vape has grown from 3.6 million last year to 5 million this year – an increase of nearly 30%.

In September, the Trump administration vowed to come up with new regulations that would ban all vape flavors except for tobacco. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to roll out those rules, the recent research indicates they may have little effect on youth vaping.

Studies suggest that once addicted to nicotine, kids will use it in any form or flavor they can. Without access to JUUL’s mango, cucumber, fruit, and crème flavors, kids simply migrated to mint. Research has also shown that kids who vape will also use conventional tobacco cigarettes to get a nicotine fix if they can’t get their hands on a JUUL or other vape.

It remains to be seen whether fewer kids will start vaping if their only flavor choice is tobacco, but the latest studies indicate that it’s unlikely there would be a significant slowdown. A black market for flavored vapes and the ingredients to make and refill JUUL pods could fuel the vaping epidemic for years to come.

Many of those sickened in the ongoing outbreak of vaping-related lung illnesses have reported using illicit vapes. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on Oct. 29 that the outbreak had grown to 1,888 cases in every state but Alaska, including 37 deaths. Many but not all of the victims have reported using illicit vapes containing THC (cannabis). Health authorities have not been able to pinpoint the substances linking all the illnesses.

Beasley Allen lawyers Joseph VanZandt and Sydney Everett, together with Mass Torts Section Head Andy Birchfield, are currently representing several individuals who are suing 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.

Additional sources:
WebMD
Associated Press
Beasley Allen

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