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JUUL 2.0 Designed To Combat Underage Use Via New Tech Update

JUUL 2.0 Designed To Combat Underage Use Via New Tech Update


JUUL Vapor Kit Bluetooth

Cigalike megabrand JUUL has finally released some information on its upcoming 2019 hardware update, which the company says will exploit Bluetooth technology to not only combat underage use but allow legal vapers to monitor and taper their nicotine consumption.

The update comes after nearly a year of unrelenting negative media coverage. Juul has been under fire for the device's popularity among teens and allegations the company had purposefully marketed to children. The FDA has even launched an investigation into the matter, and the controversy has played a part in the agency's consideration of banning all flavored e-liquid nationwide.

A class-action lawsuit was recently filed (adding to three others already in the works), claiming Juul didn’t give sufficient warnings about the high levels of nicotine in its JUUL pods. The same concern over high nicotine content forced the device off the market in Israel, and is the reason it's banned entirely in the European Union.

Previously, JUUL only offered nicotine concentrations varying from an estimated 50-59 milligrams per milliliter of liquid, but now the company is planning to launch new pods in reduced 30 mg/ml strength. For comparison, traditional open-system devices are most commonly used with 3-6 mg/ml strength liquid, meaning Juul’s original nicotine content was ten times as high as those. Another issue is the reduced nicotine pods will only be available in the less popular tobacco and mint flavors, not the fruit or dessert offerings that studies have shown are the preference of the vast majority of vapers.

At a TechCrunch Disrupt event last week Juul, which is based in San Francisco, promised more aggressive action to address complaints about underage use.

First, pending FDA approval for a device redesign that's expected sometime in 2019, the brand will roll out a new, Bluetooth-equipped battery. When charged for the first time, the cigalike will ask to be paired with a user's mobile device. From there, the device will automatically lock when not paired with its owner's phone. Juul says this will prevent its products from being used by anyone other than the owner, limiting underage access.

It appears, however, that the smart lock phone-pairing feature is on an opt-in basis. Further, no mention was made of whether an age verification process would be part of the setup procedure, leaving open the possibility that a teen in possession of a cell phone could still enable the device's lock.

The company has also suggested that the Internet connectivity offered via Bluetooth could enable Juul or school districts to enable the digital lock, automatically preventing the devices from being used on or near school campuses.

Another feature of the new hardware will allow usage tracking, incorporating tools for adult users whose ultimate goal is to quit smoking, vaping, and using nicotine entirely. If an intermediate goal is to reduce use by 20 percent over two weeks (an example suggested by TechCrunch), the software would take into account the user's current habits and then offer advice advice on how much and how often to vape in order to hit that target.

These are certainly positive steps, and JUUL does seem to be making some effort to crack down on underage use, although it also admits that realistically a certain amount of products that can only legally be consumed by adultstobacco, alcohol, or otherwisewill inevitably end up in younger people’s hands.

When it comes to the nicotine issue, however, things are a little murkier. Use tracking can be a helpful tool. It's one we're eager to test out, since it seems at first glance to be more substantive than the ubiquitous and generic "puff counters" that have long existed on many mods. However, it’s unclear how well users will be able to taper off nicotine if there are only two levels of nicotine to choose from. Therefore, a broader array of reduced-nicotine offerings, including some that are even lower than the proposed 30 mg/ml, would be welcomed. We’d also like to see pods in a wider selection of flavors that adults actually want to vape. These two steps alone would go a long way in making JUUL’s upcoming changes even more far-reaching.

Any action taken by JUUL is sure to send shockwaves through the market in general. The company reportedly enjoys a 70 percent market share, but that's probably a highball estimate since it only takes into account sales made in convenience stores and other non-vape-specific brick-and-mortar retailers. Even though adding in sales at vape shops and online vapor vendors like Breazy would reduce that number dramatically, it's likely this one startup is responsible for a fifth or more of overall sales.

We'll be watching for more on the next-generation Juul, and rest assured that as soon as we see something, we'll say something.