NJ investigating marketing tactics of e-cigarette maker JUUL Labs

The state is actively pursuing an investigation into the marketing and sales practices of e-cigarette manufacturer JUUL Labs as part of the executive committee of a 39-state coalition, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced Tuesday. 

The multi-state coalition is investigating JUUL’s targeting of young people, as well as the company’s claims regarding nicotine content and statements regarding the risks, safety, and effectiveness of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation device.  

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat a flavored nicotine solution into an aerosol that is inhaled by the “vaping” user. Some of the chemicals used in e-cigarettes are toxic, and nicotine is addictive. 

“As a father myself, I am deeply troubled by the soaring popularity among young people of vaping products in general and of JUUL’s products in particular,” Grewal said. “We’re taking a hard look at JUUL’s marketing of its vaping products, including its targeting of young people, and will ensure that any unlawful practices come to an end.” 

The sale of vaping products to people under 21 is illegal in New Jersey. Traditional cigarette smoking has declined among young people in New Jersey and across the nation, but the use of e-cigarettes among youth has increased. Studies show that young users are enticed by flavors like bubble gum, mint, fruit loop and cotton candy.

“E-cigarette use has skyrocketed among our youth, leading them to a lifetime of addiction to nicotine. E-cigarettes are not safe for anyone, especially our youth,” said State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “E-cigarettes contain harmful chemicals and cause serious lung damage, as we’ve seen in more than 100 hospitalizations since last summer.” 

JUUL-brand e-cigarettes appear to have been among the most popular choices for young people, officials said. JUUL recently stopped selling flavors other than tobacco and menthol, but officials said both its current and historic practices are under scrutiny. 

A JUUL vaping device

In January, Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation to make New Jersey the first state in the nation to impose a permanent ban on flavored vaping products. The legislation prohibits the sale and distribution of flavored vaping products, including menthol. The New Jersey Legislature passed the bill based on a recommendation from the Governor’s electronic smoking device task force.

A recent Rutgers University study of more than 4,000 New Jersey high school students in grades 9 through 12 found that nearly 90 percent of adolescents surveyed have used JUUL brand e-cigarettes. According to the study, the JUUL brand is so common that many young users surveyed talk about “JUULing” as opposed to using the terms vaping or e-cigarettes. According to the Rutgers study, “the rapid growth in e-cigarette use among young people coincides with the meteoric rise of JUUL, a type of pod-based device that now dominates the market.” JUUL had captured more than 70 percent of the branded e-cigarette market in the nation by fall 2018, about 25 percent leap in market share compared with the prior year, according to the study.

“We cannot allow hard-fought declines in adolescent smoking to be undone by companies that deceptively market dangerous nicotine products to teens,” said Paul Rodríguez, acting director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. “We must act quickly to prevent e-cigarette manufacturers like JUUL from getting rich by creating a new generation of addicts.”