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“JUUL’s breakthrough “nicotine salts” formula for vaping liquid, now the industry standard, set off an epidemic of e-cigarette use by U.S. Teenagers. Now Investigators want to know if the company targeted young people as customers.” – Reuters

One thing is clear, JUUL executives knew teens were flocking to its breakthrough e-cigarette shortly after it went on sale in 2015. A former JUUL manager admits that its nicotine blend was so potent, engineers devised a kill switch to limit the dosage – but the idea was shelved.

Vincent Latronica headed up sales and distribution for JUUL on the U.S. East Coast from 2014-16. He said the company’s sales force found it difficult to convince reluctant retailers to give them shelf space. That is, until they began showing retailers charts depicting charts on how efficiently JUUL delivered nicotine into the bloodstream. It became a central selling point for its sales force, and, according to Latronica, “everyone wanted it”. The chart showed that within 5 minutes, JUUL could deliver 35% more nicotine into the bloodstream than the venerable Pall Mall cigarette.

In the early years of JUUL, they were seeing 500% annual growth in teen use. Some insiders in the company were uncomfortable with the early signs of teen use throughout their markets. “Company leaders clearly understood the long-term benefit of young users on the bottom line. It was well known that young customers were the most profitable segment in the history of the tobacco industry because research shows that nicotine user who start as teenagers are the most likely to become lifelong addicts”.

In the Spring of 2018, just days before the Food and Drug Administration were to announce a crackdown on youth access to and use of JUUL, JUUL announced a “comprehensive strategy” to curb youth sales. They said, “they were caught off guard” by teenage addiction rates to their product.

That narrative is undermined by two prominent tobacco researchers who told Reuters that they explicitly warned Juul’s founders and a top company scientist about the potential for youth e-cigarette abuse. Neal Benowitz at University of California-San Francisco, said he told Gal Cohen, the company’s director of scientific affairs, that widespread teen use could wreck the company’s business.

“Look, the one thing you have to do is make sure that this doesn’t get into the hands of young people,” Benowitz recalled telling Cohen about a year after the product launch. “If it spreads among kids, this product could be dead.” (Reuters)

What is undeniably clear today is that JUUL tore a page out of the Big Tobacco playbook as it marketed to teens and, as a result, their market share in the U.S. E-cigarette market skyrocketed from just above zero in 2016 to 42.3% in just 24 months.

Explosive growth on the backs of the health of our nation’s teens is not a business plan that should be tolerated.

The newly formed Multidistrict Litigation involving JUUL will be procedurally similar to the MDLs formed in the Municipal Opioid Litigation and the Roundup Cancer litigation that Smith & Johnson is currently involved in. Smith & Johnson is currently interviewing potential Michigan claimants for inclusion in this Federal MDL re: JUUL e-cigarettes. If you have questions about this litigation and what rights you may have, please contact Attorney Tim Smith at (231) 946-0700 for a free consultation.

 

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