In light of the FDA’s statement last month asking five major e-cigarette manufacturers to prove they could stop sales to minors within 60 days, the e-cigarette market has been flooded with new, unregulated copycat products, all following the model and make of JUUL. They contain higher levels of nicotine than the advertised 20-pack equivalent pods of JUUL, yet are cheaper and just as sleek as the coveted JUUL.
Currently, JUUL, Vuse, MarkTen, blue e-cigs, and Logic are subject to having their flavored-liquid products removed from the market if they are not able to enforce the new FDA regulation requirements. Though aimed at minors, the FDA's regulations could have an impact on all those who "JUUL," including students at colleges like USC, where JUULing has soared in popularity in recent years.
Despite most state legislation, including California, making the legal age to purchase cigarettes and lighters 21 and over, e-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among youth in the United States, surpassing combustible cigarettes. The Surgeon General's 2016 report on e-cigarette use among youth and young adults found that 35.8 percent of those 18-24 have used e-cigarettes in the past.
"Cigarettes are often perceived as being 'cool,' 'modern,' or 'high-tech,'" said Nicholas Goldenson, a researcher at the USC HEAL lab. "Once beginning vaping, students may become addicted to nicotine and begin experiencing symptoms of nicotine dependence."
How did the epidemic reach this scale? Pax Labs' JUUL is at the forefront of e-cigarette technology. The hard to spot e-cigarette also contains a USB port, allowing one to charge it from a laptop. Even though college campuses have set and enforced stricter no-smoke policies, there has only been a noticeable increase in the student use of e-cigarettes on high school and college campuses.
Opinion on the FDA's recent decision has been mixed. Public health officials, like Matthew Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, have complained that FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb had already been too lenient in letting "kid friendly e-cigarettes…to stay on the market with little public health oversight." On the other hand, Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, believes the announcement is a "gift to the tobacco industry," referring to the jump in stock prices due to the new policy.
In addition, copycat e-cigarette startups have taken advantage of the new limitations on JUUL and other major brands, despite the August 2016 ban on the introduction of any new vapor products to the market. Kandypens, Myle Vapor, VGOD and others offer similar small and compact devices, with cheaper pods that contain nicotine salts for a smoother experience. These unregulated products have been ignored by the FDA, which has received complaints from anti-smoking organizations but has yet to respond. Whether their sales will increase as a result of the 60-day ultimatum remains to be seen.
Still, the major audience affected are the youth themselves. Senior Angelina Feronti believes that Pax Labs made the JUUL with the intention of it being a combustible cigarette alternative, and that its marketability toward the youth was simply a coincidence.
"I don't think JUUL really poses a major threat to adolescents," Feronti said. "There are more pressing substances for the FDA to concern themselves with. People still smoke cigarettes, teenagers still smoke cigarettes, and cigarettes are worse for you than JUULs."