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Juul Agrees to Pay Out, Ending Senseless Government Probe

Juul probe
Written by Sarah Friedman

The government wasn’t going to let up, not as long as Juul was the posterboy for getting people off smoking. But that’s what they are, and somehow, the government thinks that’s bad. In the latest on this story, Juul agreed to pay out in an effort to end a long-running and damaging government probe into its advertising techniques. How much? $438.5 million. Yet…not one real problem.

Juul just agreed to pay out to stop a long-running government probe. Is this because it was actually doing something bad, or because the government simply wasn’t going to let up. We are a news publication covering everything interesting in the world of cannabis, psychedelics, and beyond. Check out the Cannadelics Weekly Newsletter to stay updated, and to gain access to deals on cannabis and psychedelics products, from vapes and smoking paraphernalia, to edibles and cannabinoid compounds including Delta 8 & HHC. Head to our ‘best of’ lists for offers, and purchase the products you are most happy to use.


What’s the backstory?

Juul was the first big provider of vapes, when e-cigs rose to popularity in 2017. Since that time, even with the advent of tons of other vape companies, in an industry that is wildly out of range of US government regulation, the government has continually gone after Juul, for pretty much anything it can, including a probe into advertising techniques, which was just settled.

In June the FDA officially banned Juul products, based on the notion that Juul hadn’t provided enough information on the safety of its products. According to Mitch Zeller, the former director of the Center for Tobacco Products, “It’s about anybody who would use the product and potential safety issues that the company failed to adequately address.”

Michele Mital of the Center for Tobacco Products stated on behalf of the FDA, that Juul was given time to provide information on long-term safety as per FDA questions, and didn’t. She said, the company “instead left us with significant questions. Without the data needed to determine relevant health risks, the FDA is issuing these marketing denial orders.”

Government probe into Juul
Government probe into Juul

This was contested by Juul’s Chief Regulatory Officer Joe Murillo who said the company would appeal, and that Juul most definitely “provided sufficient information and data based on high-quality research.” Going even further, he stated that Juul hasn’t received any safety complaints from consumers, implying the products are of no immediate danger to anyone, and making the FDA claims, that much more unnecessary.

It’s not just Juul thinking all this is crazy. University of Michigan’s Tobacco Research Network Director Clifford E. Douglas, summed it up well when he said, “Given the political pressure brought to bear by tobacco-control groups, parent groups and members of Congress to ban Juul, one wonders whether this decision was solely based on safety.” Douglas also served previously as vice president for tobacco control at the American Cancer Society.

The US government was totally fine taking these products off shelves, but did nothing to remove actual cigarettes. As cigarettes are the products causing deaths, not vapes, it raises a lot of questions as to the motives of such a move. If the government sees fit to remove Juul for possible safety issues, shouldn’t it definitely remove cigarettes for the known and proven safety issues?

What just happened?

While Juul appeals the banning of its products, it just agreed to pay out on another front to end a long-running government probe related to its marketing practices. The US government seems to care less that kids have transitioned to a safer smoking option, than it does about upholding its own laws on nicotine advertising. The basis of the settlement that Juul just paid out for, was an on-going probe based on the US government’s contention that Juul “relentlessly marketed vaping products to underage youth.”

Connecticut attorney general William Tong stated, “Juul’s cynically calculated advertising campaigns created a new generation of nicotine addicts.” Is this supposed to imply that without Juul, these kids wouldn’t have tried…anything? Not according to research, which shows a new onslaught of kids starting to smoke, every year. While numbers were highest in the mid-90’s with 33.5% of seniors in high school smoking, they’ve been lower for awhile with 2.4% smoking in 2019.

2.4% is a low number, but vaping was already a thing in 2019. Expecting that kids will simply stop doing something they’ve always done, is so backwards that its facepalm worthy. Have you ever heard a kid say “they’re trying to stop me, so I’ll stop trying?” The best answer is to provide good information and a safer answer, like vaping over smoking. It’s the same as handing out condoms rather than assuming kids will be talked out of having sex. Or giving out free needles because its understood a junky with shoot up, but it doesn’t mean they have to die.

Vaping Juul products vs smoking
Vaping Juul products vs smoking

This idea that taking vapes off shelves will eliminate nicotine addictions (which don’t kill anyone – go ahead, find a statistic…), and that kids won’t go out and smoke cigarettes instead, is so nonsensical it’s almost funny. But, it’s not funny, because that’s what a move like this does. The only thing the government stands to gain by doing this, is more sick people from more smoking, and more tax money from those excessively high cigarette taxes, that the government can’t collect from the illicit vape market.

The settlement itself makes very little sense, requiring things like Juul not allowing anyone under 35 in advertising. This is strange as anyone 18 and above can legally smoke. That’s a 17 year difference. Perhaps the inanity is because there isn’t technically a safety issue to respond to, as this probe didn’t result from an actual problem with any of Juul’s products.

Why is this nuts?

It’s nuts because 480,000 people die a year from cigarette damage, according to the same government trying to stop a company from selling a nicotine product that doesn’t require smoking. As smoking itself is the detriment, and not the specific product smoked, the idea of targeting anyone trying to provide a better option, is insane. No direct deaths are linked to vaping, nicotine, or any cannabis or tobacco compound; only to additives, which can be regulated by the government.

As far as demanding long-term safety information, the reality is that it’s not possible to have it past a point, something we’ve gotten used to with today’s pharmaceutical industry that pushes out medications faster than we can test them in life. Long term safety information is based on the progressive use of a product, which takes time. In a younger industry, this information doesn’t exist, because it can’t. That this much time has gone by without a notable issue, simply points to the fact that so far, these products are okay.

As the US government itself can’t provide long-term safety information for any new drug it approves, it’s that much more ridiculous to go after Juul with such a probe. The FDA has repeatedly recalled approved drugs because of drastic safety issues (sometimes downright scary ones), and as of yet, Juul hasn’t had to do anything like that.

What about saving kids?

And that line about saving kids? It was the same line used last year when the federal government attempted to institute a vape mail ban. Somehow, in light of 480,000 deaths a year, 41,000 attributable to secondhand smoke (something that doesn’t exist with vaping), the FDA still wants kids to do the more dangerous thing.

Juul products stop kids from smoking
Juul products stop kids from smoking

Without intervention, kids are actually gravitating toward the healthier option. According to the CDC, when looking at past-month cigarette usage, in 2020, 1 out of 50 middle school students claimed they smoked, as well as 1 out of 20 high school students. In comparison to e-cigs, 1 out of 20 middle school students said they used an e-cig in the past month, and one fifth of high school students.

In terms of overall cigarette use, in 2019, about a quarter of middle school kids, and a half of high school kids said they tried a tobacco product. This went down to 7 out of 100 middle school kids (6.7%), and 23 out of 100 high school kids (23.6%), in 2020. This does show a progression toward e-cigs from cigarettes. As one comes with a high death toll, and one has none, it’s a massive head-scratcher that so much effort is put into getting rid of the better option.

Especially when there are bigger fish to fry. There is no direct death toll from e-cigs. But there is from alcohol and opioids. The National Institute of Health (NIH) reported that in 2019, about 414,000 kids (12-17) had alcohol use disorder. In fact, a 2014 WHO report named alcohol misuse as the #1 risk factor for death and disability in the age group 15-49, indicating it understands that kids as young as 15 are getting very messed up by alcohol.

Should we take it up a notch? According to this report by the National Survey on Drug use and Health for 2017, almost 770,000 kids between ages 12-17 misused opioids that year. In comparison, about 14,000 tried heroin. No death statistics were given for that, but they were somewhere else. In a report by the Yale School of Medicine which analyzed CDC mortality data, researchers found that opioids were responsible for close to 9,000 deaths of kids in the US between 1999-2016. No deaths from vaping tobacco compounds occurred in that time.

Conclusion

The US government can be quite the bully. It can’t reel in the growing vape market, so it goes after the big names it can, as if that will really do away with the entire industry. It hopes, of course, that you’ll get scared by the fear-marketing headlines, and return to the good old-fashioned cigarette, over those newfangled vapes that don’t cause the same death rate, or make the government the same tax money.

Instead of the question ‘did Juul market to kids?’, perhaps it should be, ‘why would it matter if Juul marketed to kids?’ And better yet, ‘don’t we want Juul to market to kids?’ If the main goal is keeping people healthy, why are we arguing about this at all? People are going away from smoking. This is good. And if the government stops getting in the way, like it did with this Juul probe, the trend could keep up, leading to an overall healthier country.

Plus, its good to remember that countries like the UK are now starting to knock down the ridiculous smear campaigns on vaping. In a recent independent review commissioned by the Secretary of Health, recommendations were made to promote vaping in order to get away from smoking, and it’s massive death toll.

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About the author

Sarah Friedman

I look stuff up and and write stuff down, in order to make sense of the world around. And I travel a lot too.

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