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A new study warns that JUUL electronic cigarettes are particularly potent avenues for teen nicotine addiction, indicating it appears the controversial vaping pods were both designed and marketed with the goal of drawing in underage consumers.
Harvard researchers published a systematic review of pod-based electronic cigarettes and their connections to youths and young adults, finding that the design of JUUL products, aggressive social media marketing and convenience features make teens particularly susceptible to addiction. The findings were published on June 1 in JAMA Pediatrics.
Electronic cigarettes were initially marketed as a safer alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes. However, with the introduction of JUUL vape pods and other flavored e-cigarettes specifically targeted toward teens and non-smokers, there is now a growing epidemic of youth e-cigarette addiction nationwide.
JUUL Labs has been accused of fueling the growing teen nicotine addiction problems in the United States, with allegations indicating that the vaping pods were intentionally designed to look like a USB thumb drives, as part of an effort to appeal to youth.
In this latest study, researchers looked at data from numerous e-cigarette-based articles from June 2015 to June 2019. They found the design of pod-based electronic cigarettes, like JUUL, are a technological leap forward allowing more people to consume high doses of nicotine, and that they were marketed to be very attractive to youths.
However, the researchers also pointed out that one of the largest factors in widespread teen use may be the social acceptability fostered by aggressive social media marketing.
“The appeal and dependence potential of pod-based e-cigarettes for youth emphasize the need for stronger regulations on product design, social media, marketing channels, and youth access together with health communications that emphasize the risks of nicotine dependence,” the researchers wrote.
Teen Vaping Epidemic
Nationally, among high school students, e-cigarette use increased 10-fold, from 1.5 percent in 2011 to 16 percent in 2015. While many states regulate the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, e-cigarettes have been easily available to youth via the internet for several years.
In September 2019, the FDA issued a warning letter to JUUL, indicating there was evidence the company told school-aged children its products were safer than cigarettes, which has not been proven.
Hundreds of product liability lawsuits are being pursued by individuals who have now developed life-long nicotine addictions from JUUL, which were allegedly caused by false and misleading advertisements for the vaping pods that targeted teens and prior non-smokers. In addition, a number of school districts are also pursuing claims for damages that resulted from the vaping epidemic, which has disrupted classes and have diverted resources in recent years.
Given similar questions of fact and law presented in claims filed throughout the federal court system, about 600 lawsuits are currently centralized before U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick III in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, which is where JUUL Labs, Inc.’s San Francisco headquarters are located.
As part of the consolidation into a MDL, it is expected that Judge Orrick will establish a “bellwether” process, where a small group of representative claims will be prepared for early trial dates to help the parties gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the litigation. However, if the manufacturer fails to reach JUUL settlements or another resolution for the claims following the consolidated pretrial proceedings, each individual case may be remanded back to U.S. District Courts nationwide for individual trials in the future.