Electronic cigarette companies not responsible for youth consumption

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E-cigarettes like Juuls pose health concerns, but their popularity shouldn’t penalize the companies that created them.

Nicotine vaping has hit high school and university campuses in unprecedented numbers. It’s on countless Instagram pages glamorizing university party culture to vulnerable teens. The recent success of one vaporizer, the Juul, has attracted young people in droves.

However, the device’s strong nicotine concentration and the unknown long-term impact of inhaling its chemicals is causing widespread concern. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently promised to crack down on JUUL Labs if they don’t severely curtail their marketing.

Nicotine vapes are designed and marketed to help adults trying to stop smoking. The FDA’s fear is that the device will be a gateway to nicotine addiction once the e-cigarette fad ends.

That said, it’s not JUUL Labs' responsibility to singlehandedly end this trend.

Juuls are primarily sold to minors on the black market—both JUUL Labs and most vape stores strictly ID patrons according to law before sale. JUUL Labs also limits the amount of nicotine one person can order online from their website to attempt to mitigate the black market.

JUUL Labs has taken several further steps to market their product specifically to adults. The company scrapped its colourful flavour names, changing “Cool Mint” and “Crème Brulee” to “Mint” and “Vanilla.” It lists the age of every individual involved in its advertisements, and warns ad viewers of the addictiveness of nicotine.

These concrete steps all prove the company doesn’t endorse teen vaping.

Young people do everything they’re told not to. Teens will always risk their health for any experience deemed sufficiently entertaining.

And this kind of culture isn’t changing any time soon.

While it’s not up to JUUL Labs to rewire teen brains, it’s up to regulators to understand vaping before limiting it.

Health concerns abound in the new phenomenon. Before repressing an industry meant to ease addiction, government departments should do their homework. This means researching the long-term health drawbacks and advantages of vaping, and publicizing them accordingly.

Nicotine is a drug and should be strictly regulated, similar to tobacco and alcohol. More time should be spent determining how to classify and regulate vaping.

Taking ineffective measures can be just as harmful as doing nothing at all—banning something without concrete reasoning or motivation is futile.

Limiting JUUL Labs’ marketing is useless: the company doesn’t control whether social media stars post a Snapchat vaping or whether fan accounts proliferate.

If decision-makers want to curtail vaping, they should start by promptly establishing research and regulation efforts, not by threatening a mass ban.

—Journal Editorial Board

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