On Thursday, 23 June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued to JUUL Labs Inc. for all of their products currently marketed in the United States.
In addition, those currently on the US market must be removed, or risk enforcement action. The products include the JUUL device and four types of JUULpods.
The US e-cigarette and vape industry, valued at a whopping $6.09 billion in 2020, has been under intense scrutiny from anti-tobacco advocates for a while now.
After two long years of being under review by the FDA (since 9 September 2020) , the Silicon Valley start-up that was largely blamed for the young adults vaping, was ordered off the market, citing lack of sufficient evidence regarding the toxicological profile of the products.
JUUL enjoyed a market share of about 72% of the whole U.S. vape industry in September 2018, but is now not even a part of the market.
Such a drastic fall makes you wonder where things went wrong, doesn't it?
The Birth of JUUL
The birth of JUUL was a celebratory event - it entered the market as the messiah of chain-smokers and claimed that it would help fight off addiction to the cancer sticks.
JUUL Labs, Inc. was founded on 22 May, 2015 by two former cigarette smokers, Adam Bowen and James Monsees. The JUUL electronic cigarette or 'JUULpod' was introduced by Pax Labs in June 2015.
JUULpods soon gained popularity because of their sleek design and addicting fruity flavours (mint, mango, crème brûlée, tobacco, and so many more) - just with the wrong crowd.
JUUL which was supposed to be for adult smokers who wanted to quit, was being aggressively marketed to the youth through flashy ads feauring attractive young models who were shown socializing and sharing the flash-drive shaped device, dancing to music, dressed in clothes that were more characteristic of teens than adults.
Though the company now denies anything of the sort, records of old deleted posts and stories from mid 2015-2016 show otherwise.
JUUL became so popular that it became a verb - 'Juuling' became the new normal amongst teens.
JUUL's early packaging did not highlight the amount of nicotine it contained either(one JUUL pod was the approximate equivalent of 20 cigarettes).
Two years in, and from making up less than 5% of the vape market, the company skyrocketed to regulating one-third of the entire industry.
Before anyone could object, JUUL had become an indispensable part of the american high school experience.
The Youth of JUUL
By 2017, reports showed that 1.73 million high schoolers were 'juuling' as compared to the 1.12 million who smoked cigarettes.
In July 2017, JUUL parted from parent company PAX Labs and in a stroke of success, raised close to $150 million in funding.
However, the first big blow came a year later, when the American Academy of Pediatrics sued the FDA over its lack of regulatory action taken against JUUL.
No serious consequence was seen as the vaping giant soon went on to its all time high, as JUUL sales increased by 160% in the year 2017-18.
Worry increased as JUUL exploited an unregulated market structure set in place by the FDA, to its own advantage.
Finally, in a historic step, the FDA demanded thousands of documents regarding the marketing and sales of JUUL products and as a response, the company took off all flavors from the market, except tobacco, mint and menthol and promised to enhance its online verification system.
Despite the controversy, JUUL sales soared.
The company that was always marketed as one that would take down tobacco received a USD 12.8 billion investment from one of the world' leading tobacco giant Altria at the end of 2018, making its founders Billionnaires.
The Fall Of The Empire
In 2019, the company caught too many eyes and soon found itself within the crosshairs of lawmakers and protestors.
"What JUUL didn't communicate to young people was that the lifestyle they were selling, was a lifestyle of nicotine."Meredith Berkman, co-founder, Parents Against e-vaping (PAVE)
The picture turned ugly for JUUL when the EVALI outbreak happened. EVALI stands for E-cigarette Vaping use Associated Lung Injury.
Peaking in August and September of 2019, the epidemic brought e-cigarettes under intense fire and the then-CEO of JUUL, stated 'Don't vape, don't use JUUL.' when asked to defend the brand on record.
JUUL argued that its products did not have the harmful component of Vitaman E acetate but 'juuling' had become synonymous with vaping by that time and that's where the problem was.
Soon, states began filing lawsuits against JUUL for promoting vaping to youth and heavy fines of USD 40 million were given to the state of North Carolina and USD 14 million to Arizona.
However, this was simply the beginning of the domino as by the end, more than 30 states had filed complaints.
The FDA granted approval to other e-cigarette businesses like the R.J. Reynolds Vapor Company for its Vuse Vibe e-cigarette device, but prohibited the sale of JUUL.
JUUL could do nothing but watch as its future got vaporised by the FDA.
"We respectfully disagree with the FDA's findings and decision and continue to believe we have provided sufficient information and data based on high-quality research to address all issues raised by the agency," ,Joe Murillo, Chief Regulatory Officer, JUUL Labs
Vaping in India
In September 2019, India banned the manufacture, buying, and selling of vapes and e-cigarettes.
The Indian government has been pretty strict when it comes to e-cigarettes and vaping but equally soft when hardcore smoking is in question.
Arguments still rise around this all-out ban as the sale of e-cigarettes continues in the black market and on various online platforms, including Instagram.
A more regulatory approach to such a colossal industry could have been more in favour of the country as opposed to a stringent ban, according to experts, giving India more control over the product and who it is being sold to.
While India's ban on vaping was a landmark decision for the tobacco industry (not to mention, controversial) the question remains whether it was a prudent one.
And how does india plan to deal with other forms of tobacco (gutka, cigarettes, paan, zardha, etc) that are sold freely in the sub-continent?
Now, that is a question worth INR 55 Billion. The same amount as the evaluation of the tobacco market of India in 2020.
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