New numbers show the popular yet controversial e-cigarette company JUUL raked in $1 billion in revenue last year, a five-fold increase from just one year before.
JUUL LABS faces scrutiny from lawmakers, health workers and parents who say the company appears to advertise its products to minors.
“I can’t support that type of stuff,” said Stanton High, manager of Stellar Vape in Atascadero.
Stanton sells a variety of vape products, but JUUL is not one of them.
“Vaping like this is a very homegrown, by the vapors for the vapors to help people quit smoking,” Stanton said. “The big companies like that are looking to make money, they are looking for profit, they are looking for people to keep using it and they have a method for people to keep using it.”
He says not all vaping pods contain the same amount of nicotine.
Those with more, he says, encourage traditional smoking and nicotine addiction.
“I disagree with these products because the nicotine level is so high it’s going to probably get those kids addicted for much longer than they should,” Stanton said. “They are playing with fire and they don’t realize it.”
A National Youth Survey found 1.5 million more students used e-cigs in 2018 than 2017.
“It’s like any tech product, they are really just taking off as what a new iPhone would be,” said Inger Appanaitis, the program manager for San Luis Obispo County Tobacco Control.
Health workers like Inger say the vape pens meant for adults are being misused by minors.
“At the national and county level, it’s right around 20 percent of high school students or 1 in 5 students that are using these products,” Appanaitis said. “That is alarmingly high.”
Many say JUUL targeted younger generations with misleading advertisements.
“Really childish marketing and really candy-like marketing,” High said. “It’s distasteful and you don’t want a weird, distasteful vibe coming from a product made for adults.”
After JUUL came under fire by lawmakers, the company stopped selling certain flavored pods to retail stores.
“Their rise to tremendous profitability is really scary because it means they are selling a ton of units,” said Trent Johnson, the program manager for Stanford University’s Tobacco Policy Studies.
Johnson says those units are in the hands of young adults as one of the most popular e-cig products for California teens and they’re getting them from retail and online stores.
“If JUUL sales and also teen and adolescent use of these products continue at this same trajectory, then we will be facing a national epidemic of teen vaping and addiction to nicotine,” Johnson said.
“We’re looking at educating the students, parents and teachers and school administrators because this isn’t just a problem in school,” Appanaitis said. “We really need the support of the community and the parents to see what the issue is, how to recognize it, how to talk to students and how to be more informed.”
KSBY investigated the use of e-cigs among middle school students in a story that aired Thursday night.
There are a number of resources in the community for parents, teachers and administrators to use to combat underage vaping.
Trent Kwong, a JUUL LABS spokesperson said in a statement:
“JUUL LABS has strengthened the age verification of our industry leading site, eliminated our Facebook and Instagram accounts, and are developing new technology to further limit youth access and use. We are committed to working with lawmakers, the surgeon general, FDA, state attorneys general, local municipalities, and community organizations as a transparent and responsible partner in this effort.”