E-cigarette maker ‘Juul’ stops selling flavored products, amid spike in RI teen use

A major player in the thriving e-cigarette business is pulling its flavored products from retail stores across the country in an effort to curb teen tobacco use.

You may have heard of the company Juul that sells an e-cigarette that many believe resembles a USB drive for a computer. And the taste makes it very appealing to teenagers and people under the age of 21.

Juul’s hand is being forced to do this by the FDA, as the agency required Juul to do something to reduce youth smoking after an investigation was performed looking into its marketing practices.

On Tuesday, the company released its plan of pulling its mango, fruit, creme, and cucumber flavors from retailers, leaving only tobacco and menthol flavors available.

But former smoker Jake Vincent said it’s those types of flavors that helped him quit smoking traditional cigarettes.

“It’s a good alternative. It’s a safer alternative,” said the 20 year-old. “If I only had tobacco or menthol [flavors] I would probably still be smoking.”

Vincent did not use a Juul product to quit, he used a larger device bought from David Cervone at his specialty vaping shop in Providence, The Vape Lounge Rhode Island.

“The flavors were obviously marketed more towards [a younger] demographic because of the availability to sell at convenience stores,” Cervone said. “The problems more so than the flavors would be the availability.”

That ease of access has led to what Erin Boles Welsh, the tobacco control program coordinator at the Department of Health, calls an epidemic.

“We don’t want the message to be that these products are safe. They are not,” she said. “These products taste good and many [youth] don’t understand they contain high levels of nicotine.”

Welsh said that after tackling years of traditional cigarettes, teen tobacco use is on the rise again.

She said that 20% of teens in Rhode Island use e-cigarettes, and 70% of teens across the country admit to starting because of how it tasted.

As for Juul, the FDA threatened the company with civil or criminal action if they did not make a change.

Flavored products from Juul can still be purchased through what’s supposed to be a rigorous age verification process and consumers cannot buy products in bulk.

the company also got rid of its Facebook and Instagram accounts.