E-cigarettes

Juul Betrays Its Customers by Pre-Emptively Eliminating Most of Its E-Cigarette Flavors

The company says it will sell only tobacco, mint, and menthol pods unless and until the FDA officially approves other varieties.

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After the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revealed its plans to restrict sales of flavored e-cigarettes last year, Juul Labs, which makes the dominant brand, pre-emptively stopped supplying most of its pod varieties to brick-and-mortar stores. Yesterday, a month after the FDA said it would ban every e-cigarette flavor except tobacco, Juul announced that it will no longer sell most of its flavors online either. While tobacco, mint, and menthol pods are still available on Juul's website, the company says it will not resume selling mango, fruit, cucumber, or "creme" unless and until the FDA officially approves those products. The agency won't do that until it has reviewed a "premarket tobacco application" (PMTA) for each flavor.

"Given the lack of trust in our industry, we believe the FDA's PMTA process and its 'appropriate for the protection of the public health' standard are the best ways to assess the role these products can play in helping adult smokers move away from combustible cigarettes while also being kept out of the hands of youth," Juul explained in a press release. "We must reset the vapor category by earning the trust of society and working cooperatively with regulators, policymakers, and stakeholders to combat underage use while providing an alternative to adult smokers," said Juul's new CEO, K.C. Crosthwaite.

Juul, which had a market share of more than 70 percent as of August, is trying to placate federal regulators with life-and-death powers over the vaping industry by addressing concerns about recent increases in e-cigarette use by teenagers. But in the process, the company is throwing its customers under the bus.

Even though Juul's online store has an age verification system aimed at making sure that buyers are at least 21, former smokers who prefer the suspended flavors will no longer be able to buy them. That policy implicitly makes two dangerous concessions that the company may come to regret: 1) that it's reasonable to restrict adults' choices in the name of reducing underage consumption, and 2) that flavors other than tobacco, menthol, and mint are suspect because they appeal to teenagers, even though they are also very popular among adults who switch from smoking to vaping.

"JUUL has made it clear time and time again that they will not fight for their adult customers, many of whom rely on JUUL's flavored products to stay smoke-free," said Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, in a press release. "This cowardly, self-serving move by JUUL won't do a thing to make their congressional opponents stop detesting them. In fact, it will only open them up to questions about why they are continuing to sell mint, which is their most popular flavor with both youth and adults by virtue of it being the only non-tobacco JUUL flavor available at retail aside from menthol."

Sure enough, billionaire busybody Michael Bloomberg, who is backing efforts to ban flavored e-cigarettes, immediately questioned Juul's sincerity. "Juul knows that nearly two-thirds of high school students who use e-cigarettes now use mint or menthol flavors, which is driving Juul's bottom line," New York's former mayor said. "This is precisely why the FDA must honor its commitment to remove all flavored e-cigarettes from the shelves as quickly as possible."

If the FDA proceeds with its plan to eliminate all e-liquid flavors except tobacco, Bloomberg no doubt will have a new complaint: Look at all the teenagers using tobacco-flavored pods! Clearly, the FDA did not go far enough.

"There is a reason many adults aged 21 and over went through the hassle of purchasing flavored pods from JUUL's website," Conley noted. "Flavors are critical to helping adult smokers quit, and many ex-smokers get attached to particular flavors. While we hope that JUUL users will visit their local vape shop to find an alternative, this doesn't change the fact that some ex-smokers will likely respond to this by choosing to return to combustible cigarettes. We are sure Altria, which owns 35% of JUUL, will be pleased with any bump in Marlboro sales that follows this announcement."

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50 responses to “Juul Betrays Its Customers by Pre-Emptively Eliminating Most of Its E-Cigarette Flavors

  1. This cowardly, self-serving move by JUUL won’t do a thing to make their congressional opponents stop detesting them.

    Appeasement is due to work at some point.

    1. This cowardly, self-serving move by JUUL Bloomberg won’t do a thing to make everyone stop detesting him.

  2. >>”JUUL has made it clear time and time again that they will not fight for their adult customers

    “JUUL is 35% owned by Altria” should be a Notice at the top of these articles

    1. Phillip Morris flavoring mixtures now available at a store near you!

      1. Altria just rolled out it’s IQOS tobacco heating device in the Atlanta area and eventually will be available nationwide. It’s been popular in Japan and Europe for several years and was approved here by the fda last year, something e-cigarettes do not yet have. Anyone think it’s a coincidence that Altria replaces the Juul CEO with one of their own and now seems only too happy to comply with regulators? They want to clear the market.

    2. I’ve found that Juul carts leak or crap out easily and are pretty expensive for what they are. Also, I prefer tobacco flavor, so I don’t have a dog in this fight. BUT, we all know that what will happen is that so long as a non-zero number of teens are vaping any kind of e-cig, the nannies will demand a complete ban. Juul should have told them to go fuck themselves instead of assuming the position and asking for another.

  3. Juul Betrays Its Customers by Pre-Emptively Eliminating Most of Its E-Cigarette Flavors

    I’m really having trouble seeing the “betrayal” here. JUUL can decide to sell or not sell whatever it wants, just like any other manufacturer.

    1. Exactly

      Reason is looking for emotional terms to criticize the marketplace when it doesn’t go the way it wants

      Sullum needs an economic lesson.

      1. When their move is in response to veiled threats from the government, and motivated by the desire to cozy up to regulators, I don’t know if that’s the kind of marketplace libertarians want to see.
        Yes, they are probably doing something economically sensible. But it’s only sensible because of the stupid and ignorant (to be charitable) moves to regulate or ban products they already sell.
        This isn’t a criticism of the marketplace. It’s a criticism of regulatory incentives pushing companies to do things they wouldnt do otherwise.

        1. In which case the gripe would be with the government and its regulations, not Juul (who are simply trying to adjust to a changing marketplace).

          If Sullum thinks that this fight is so easy to take on, he should invest his money in starting up a vape business and put his own livelihood at risk instead of sniping in cowardly fashion from the sidelines at other people for not doing so.

    2. Choosing not to sell a product people depend on based on spurious information can be a betrayal of their trust.

      1. Whereas marketing to teenagers an addictive product is not a betrayal of their trust?

        1. Fuck off with that bullshit. Vaping is already illegal for minors. You have to be 18 to go in a vape shop. If there’s a market for vaping for minors, it’s an illegal and off-the-books market, hence not where marketing efforts are directed.

      2. Except that it’s not, because they’re not selling it as a favor. They’re selling it to make a profit. They can’t do that due to the new regulations and will likely face major financial liability for doing so once the government finishes.

        Nobody is obligated to commit financial suicide to keep someone else happy.

    3. What do you think “betrayal” means?
      Of course they can decide what they will sell. I don’t think that has anything to do with whether or not they are betraying customers. You are perfectly free to betray all kinds of people you have various relationships with.
      It’s probably not the word I would have chosen, but a little hyperbole doesn’t hurt.

    4. Exactly.
      A few more articles like this from someone other than Shikha (I’ve come to expect nothing but nonsense from her) and Reason goes on my “unsubscribe” list.

      1. Did you read past the headline?

      2. Good riddance.

  4. 1. There is no tobacco, so the product is NOT an e-cigarette.
    2. So adult people stop buying from them, and they go broke, and someone else get the money. Last I looked, there are options.

    1. I like Number Two.

    2. Juul is not stupid here. What we are seeing is the opening moves of that old chess game, Regulatory Capture. Uber has been doing the same thing. They start by being very compliant with the regulatory agencies so that they get a seat at the bargaining table.

      I can guarantee you that by moving flavored e-cigs to online only, Juul basically cost themselves a key market differentiator. Online sales have the lowest switching costs for customers, and so Juul’s eagerness to shut down all flavored e-cig sales is completely self serving. They want to destroy the online market all together.

    3. There is no tobacco, so the product is NOT an e-cigarette.

      That’s an odd declaration to make. That makes it not a cigarette. E-cigarettes are generally devices that vaporize or atomize a mixture of nicotine and propylene glycol and don’t contain tobacco.

  5. “Juul Betrays Its Customers—-”

    Betrays ? Is there a contract somewhere ?

    That’s a strong word for a company that may just be responding to the current market.

    Sullum should leave his emotions out of the story when evaluating the market place !

    1. Trust can be betrayed.

    2. It is an interesting position to take in conjunction with the stance that social media platforms are not betraying their customers and creators by arbitrarily censoring certain content.

      1. Is that their position, or are they arguing that the platforms have a right to betray their customers? Betrayal doesn’t have to be some legal breach or something like that. It can happen in less formal reltaionships too.

        1. They certainly have never used the word “betray” in that context. In fact they all but encouraged it. But emotional framing is what Reason does best.

    3. Well, whatever you want to call it, they are doing it to get cozy with regulators, not to better serve their customers.
      They aren’t responding to the market. They are responding to the direction regulations are moving in.
      I suppose you can argue that that is also part of the market. But I don’t think that’s what libertarians usually mean when they talk about markets.

  6. Well, at least by eliminating the popular kid-friendly flavors, vaping will be far less attractive to the under-age crowd and that’s what we’re going after, right?

    “Juul knows that nearly two-thirds of high school students who use e-cigarettes now use mint or menthol flavors, which is driving Juul’s bottom line,”

    Oh, dear. You mean it’s not the bubblegum and tutti frutti flavors that are driving the youth market? But I was certain I’ve read repeatedly that that’s the problem.

    1. There are no “kid-friendly” flavors, because the FDA already had a national ban on vaping below age 18. Minors aren’t legally allowed into vape shops, any products they buy are not reflected in sales numbers (because they are black market sales), and since sales numbers determine marketing campaigns any effect from marketing on kids is incidental.

      People who make spurious claims that vape companies are engaged in a conspiracy to hook kids are either stupid or lying.

    2. And yeah, it has nothing to do with the fact that adults like sweet flavors too. My roommate used to love cotton candy-flavored vape juice. She wasn’t a minor.

  7. Well, good thing I prefer the tobacco flavors.
    I don’t know why they don’t have unflavored.

  8. Juul knows the fix is in. They forgot to make the campaign contributions Big Tobacco did, and are paying for it.

  9. The really stupid part is that the regulators should be encouraging Juul to go after the “kids market,” thereby luring them away from tobacco.

  10. I don’t vape so someone correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t their 3rd party cartridges that work with a Juul e-cigarette? I’m picturing the equivalent of the knock off ink cartridges I buy for my HP printer.

    1. Yes, and they come in more flavors and hold more e-liquid per pod than Juul’s miserly amount. And you can buy them in almost every vape shop (not c-stores for some reason).

  11. I’ve found that Juul carts leak or crap out easily and are pretty expensive for what they are. Also, I prefer tobacco flavor, so I don’t have a dog in this fight. BUT, we all know that what will happen is that so long as a non-zero number of teens are vaping any kind of e-cig, the nannies will demand a complete ban. Juul should have told them to go fuck themselves instead of assuming the position and asking for another.

  12. Perhaps this is a sort of ‘marketing/goodwill’ gesture, but it’s obvious JUUL wouldn’t be doing this if the many government nannies and busybodies weren’t pressuring them and the entire industry. If the government nannies weren’t pressuring them, they’d have to find someone else to go after, or worse, try to improve themselves first, or God forbid, find real jobs.

    Regardless, I only see JUUL losing market share from this point on. Seriously, if you’re looking for a cost-effective means of quitting smoking, JUUL isn’t it! I successfully used vaping to quit smoking, and I did it very inexpensively by buying a $20 vape, liquid nicotine and Black Note Naturally Extracted Tobacco liquid. Worked like a charm, improved my breathing almost immediately and cut the cost of that habit by 3/4, at least! Use tapering doses of nicotine, and slooowwwly step down until you’re free.

  13. “JUUL has made it clear time and time again that they will not fight for their adult customers, many of whom rely on JUUL’s flavored products to stay smoke-free,” said Gregory Conley

    great article, thanks for sharing

  14. “Given the lack of trust in our industry, we believe the FDA’s PMTA process and its ‘appropriate for the protection of the public health’ standard are the best ways to assess the role these products can play in helping adult smokers move away from combustible cigarettes while also being kept out of the hands of youth,”

    That’s true, isn’t it? Don’t you think this nonsense about the dangers of vaping will practically evaporate (heh) once the products have the government’s stamp of approval? Regardless of what we think, loads of people consider the USA to have the world’s most trustworthy drugs because of premarket approval, and the requirement thereof, so why wouldn’t what instills confidence in drugs also work for these products?

    We can’t just snap our fingers and make everyone a radical libertarian. Meanwhile we have to do the best job with the attitudes they have. As long at there is a clear way forward, it should be pursued.

  15. Thing is that Juul has always looked kinda dorky as an adult.

    Now it seems subversive and cool.

  16. Juul has made the rather conscious and wise decision that an FDA stamp of approval is the only way to save their business – and perhaps even set them apart from competitors.

    Walmart, Rite-Aid, Kroger, Walgreens (remaining stock is 70% off) and other stores have bailed on all ecig products. If the convenience stores join them, they are toast.

    Much like Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley realized when he lobbied for the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, buyers will buy more “inspected” or “certified” products – whether such confidence is warranted or not.

    Canned and raw food sales soared after passage of the act. It also helped that people stopped keeling over and dying after these foods started to be inspected. Libertarians usually hate to hear this story.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXOIJ_pXqRg

  17. Pussies.

  18. JUUL EXEC #1: Crap. Our business model is under attack by everyone right now. Teens are illegally obtaining our product and people want to ban it for adults due to an insane moral panic. Maybe we should eliminate flavors altogether…

    JUUL EXEC#2 (FROM ALTRIA): Well, there might be something salvageable here. See, if they eventually ban vaping, people will still need a nicotine fix, right? What better way to get them used to the flavor of smoking real tobacco than by only offering the tobacco and menthol flavors!?

    JUUL EXEC #1: That… I guess…

    JUUL EXEC #2 (FROM ALTRIA): Then we win either way!

    ALTRIA EXEC (to JUUL EXEC #2): Here are some stock options!

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  21. So a business is choosing to avoid significant legal liability due to tyrannical government and you’re claiming that they’re betraying their customers by protecting their own asses. Pretty un-libertarian for Reason.

  22. I just saw an ad for a class-action lawsuit against Juul for people ‘harmed’ by their products, e.g., the recent spate of lung illnesses caused by people using illegal TCH vape cartridges and e-liquids cooked up in some Frankensteinian warehouse.
    As for flavors, you can already by Juul-replacement cartridges made by other companies that actually hold more liquid (just do a search for them) and come in more varieties. They sell them in most vaping stores. Juul has handled this so poorly from a PR point of view because upper management is trying to please everyone but pissing off everyone.
    Vuse Vapor, which is also owned by Altria, also sells online though they’ve been awfully quiet about all of this. They too sell a similar device that’s just as easy to use (and better IMHO). And you can get them at any c-store or vape shop.
    Juul is facing lawsuits for the crime of being popular with students. I don’t see the govt. going after all the enticing hard liquors being sold under the same flavors that are a favorite of teens. And which kill FAR more young people than illegal THC cartridges.

  23. Bloomberg’s nightmare: a guy wearing two six-guns, walking down the street, with a mint-flavored Juul in his mouth.

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