A recent investigation by Reuters has revealed that JUUL Labs, Inc. was
fully aware that its innovative “nicotine salts” were highly addictive as teens
and young adults were lining up to buy their new products – and did nothing to
prevent the current vaping epidemic.
Former employees say that before
JUUL rolled out its new product line in 2015, e-cigarettes were poor sellers
for two reasons: too little nicotine or harsh taste. The company studied
research carried out during the 20th Century by tobacco giant R.J.
Reynolds and other cigarette companies that had spent tremendous resources
in attempts to create the ideal balance between flavor and nicotine delivery –
helping to ensure that smokers would become addicted.
JUUL’s efforts paid
off brilliantly. The solution they found was benzoic acid, a derivative of bark harvested from trees
of the genus styrax (more commonly known as the Japanese snowbell). Benzoic acid is a common food
preservative and has medical and therapeutic uses, but can also be an eye and
skin irritant – and if inhaled, can cause respiratory distress.
Added to vape liquids, however,
it provides the ideal balance between flavor and nicotine delivery – at least
for e-cigarette manufacturers. Benzoic acid puts nicotine delivery on
proverbial steroids, providing a faster, more direct path to the brain. In
fact, the effects were so powerful that some engineers at JUUL wanted to put a
“dosage control” device on their e-cigarettes that would cause them to shut
down after a certain number of puffs. Chenyue Xing, a scientist formerly
employed at JUUL Labs who helped in the development of the company’s new
nicotine salts, told Reuters, “We didn’t want to introduce a new product
with a stronger addictive power.”
That dosage control feature was
never incorporated into JUUL’s e-cigarettes.
Today, JUUL and other e-cigarette
companies face criticism and growing scrutiny from lawmakers and regulatory
agencies for allegedly targeting young people through its advertising and the
development of fruit and candy flavorings in its vape liquids. But the current
investigation provides damning evidence that the company’s first concern was
over potency and potential for addiction – which would ensure a steady customer
for decades to come.
In response to the present
allegations, JUUL has had no comment. The company has repeated earlier
assertions that it was never its intention to sell to minors, but rather to
cigarette smokers by offering them a similar experience.
Now, JUUL’s sweet success has
turned bitter as cases of the vape-related lung disease now known as EVALI
continue to surface. While there are questions over whether or not its nicotine
products are responsible for this disease (most of cases appear to be caused by
bootleg cannabis vape products), JUUL – along with other producers of nicotine
vape – are now suffering the consequences. These recent revelations will not help
JUUL’s tarnished and deteriorating public image.