TRENTON — Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced today that New Jersey 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.
The multi-state coalition is investigating JUUL’s targeting of the youth market, 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 typically heat a flavored nicotine solution into an aerosol, which 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,” said Attorney General Grewal. “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.”
“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, who chaired Governor Phil Murphy’s Electronic Smoking Device Task Force. “They contain harmful chemicals and cause serious lung damage as we’ve seen in more than 100 hospitalizations since last summer.”
“We cannot allow hard-fought declines in adolescent smoking to be undone by companies that deceptively market dangerous nicotine products to teens,” said Paul R. Rodríguez, Acting Director of the 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.”
The sale of vaping products to persons under 21 is illegal in New Jersey. However, while traditional cigarette smoking has declined among young people in New Jersey and across the nation, the use of e-cigarettes among youth has increased.
Studies show that, in large measure, young users find flavors such as bubble gum, mint, fruit loop and cotton candy to be an enticement to vape. JUUL-brand e-cigarettes appear to have been among the most popular choices. And although JUUL recently stopped selling flavors other than tobacco and menthol, both its current and historic practices remain under scrutiny.
In January, Governor Murphy signed legislation to make New Jersey the first state in the nation to impose a permanent ban on flavored vape products. The legislation prohibits the sale and distribution of flavored vape products, including menthol.
The Legislature passed the bill based on a recommendation from the Governor’s Electronic Smoking Device Task Force, which the Governor created by Executive Order and tasked to develop a comprehensive strategy to protect New Jersey residents from the hazards of electronic cigarettes.
A recently published 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. In addition, the Rutgers study notes, the JUUL brand is so prolific that many young users surveyed refer to “JUULing” instead of vaping or e-cigarette use.
The Rutgers study observes that “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.” The study suggests that the appeal of JUUL may in large measure rest with the “discreet design” of its particular brand of e-cigarette (which may make it easier to conceal than some other brands) and the variety of flavors JUUL offers. Nationwide, the Rutgers study notes, JUUL had captured more than 70 percent of the branded e-cigarette market by fall 2018, an approximate 25 percent leap in market share compared with the prior year.
The National Youth Tobacco Survey — conduct by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control in 2019 — found more than 5 million youth reported having used e-cigarettes within the past 30 days, up from 3.6 million the prior year.