Juul Emperor Has No Clothes!
In the wonderful country of America it takes a lawsuit or two to see the obvious.
The Juul brand of e-cigarette looks like a USB stick but the difference is that, after you’ve charged it in the USB port of your computer, you stick it in your mouth – and suck. That is, you suck nicotine-laden fumes from the Juul gadget into your lungs until you feel satisfied, and then you do it again. And again. And carry on ‘Juuling’ all the day. And the next day. And the next, etc.
The Juul company, which is called Juul Labs to give the name a nice scientific ring about it, has as its object, obviously, to make as much money as they possibly can for themselves and their shareholders. They don’t actually say that, of course, so let me quote their mission statement in Juul-speak from their website:
JUUL was created to be a satisfying alternative to cigarettes. Learn about our mission to improve the lives of the world’s one billion adult smokers.
At this point we should note two questions that go begging: whether smokers really need an alternative to cigarettes, and if they do, whether that something needs to be satisfying. And the latter raises another question: why are smokers in a state of dissatisfaction anyway?
Stating the obvious
After that small digression, let’s get back to the scientific Juul people who, in order to cover their backs, spell it out thus:
Nonetheless, according to Wired (23 July 2018) at least three consumers have filed complaints against Juul. They allege that ‘Juul deceptively marketed the product as safe, when it contains more potent doses of nicotine than cigarettes.’
One complainant claims he became addicted to nicotine salts in the Juul ‘pods’ of which he now uses several each week, and another says he purchased Juul to help him quit smoking but ‘the intense dosage of nicotine salts delivered by the Juul products resulted in an increased nicotine addiction, and an increased consumption of nicotine.’
Oh dear. But it gets worse.
A third complainant, the mother of a fifteen-year-old, alleges that ‘Juul designed its product to contain more nicotine than necessary to satisfy the cravings of an adult smoker,’ and that her child ‘became heavily addicted to nicotine, making him “anxious, highly irritable and prone to angry outbursts,” and perform poorly in school.’
Classic nicotine withdrawal symptoms
Of course this poor child is anxious, highly irritable, prone to angry outbursts, and performing poorly in school as a result. These are nicotine withdrawal symptoms. And the cure for them is for him to stop putting nicotine into his body. Easier said than done? Not if you go about it in the right way.
Now we get to the interesting bit. The two first-mentioned complainants ‘seek monetary damages, as well as an injunction to curb Juul’s marketing practices.’
Monetary damages are one thing, but how do they think Juul’s marketing practices should be curbed? If they are merely curbed rather than proscribed, this implies there are circumstances in which Juul’s marketing practices are legitimate or acceptable. And what might these be? Would someone please enlighten me.
Public health champions
Juul Labs, just like all other purveyors of alternative nicotine-delivery devices (e-cigarettes, ‘heat-not-burn’ products like iQOS, etc.) present themselves as public health champions. They’re offering – to adult smokers only, of course – allegedly safer (relative to ordinary cancer sticks) ways of continuing in the thrall of drug (nicotine) addiction. If you don’t believe this please take another glance at the boxed warning, above.
Obviously, inquisitive and enterprising children and teenagers will find ways of obtaining these cool-looking drug-delivery devices – and consequently getting hooked on them.
How to solve the problem
I should like to make two proposals to deal with the problem that the unfortunate three above-mentioned complainants have got themselves into.
If it is illegal for people under the age of eighteen (or twenty-one in some jurisdictions) to buy tobacco products including e-cigarettes, then it should also be illegal for underage people to use them. I’m not suggesting this should be a punishable offence, but the inconsistency ought to be recognised and legislation enacted accordingly.
Secondly, going after the manufacturers of Juul and similar products is aiming at the wrong target. It is governments, if they lack the requisite awareness or motivation, who should be lobbied to disallow them.
We don’t need more nicotine-delivery devices!
Text © Gabriel Symonds