At the end of May 2023, it seemed like the UK Government had finally found a way to balance its somewhat contrasting views on e-cigarettes and their place in the treatment of people addicted to smoking.
This press conference focused on ensuring that smokers could reach a vape supplier or get help from the NHS to transition away from cigarettes, whilst ensuring that a loophole that somehow allowed free samples to be distributed inappropriately was closed.
However, within just a few days of this briefing being circulated, a controversy surrounding one of the vaping companies it endorses due to a series of legal issues, controversies and a $462m settlement surrounding its marketing tactics that must be seen to be believed.
Juul In The Crown
Juul Labs is a pod vape company part-owned by Altria, formerly known as Phillip Morris and most famous for manufacturing and selling various cigarette brands such as Benson & Hedges and Marlboro.
At one point it was the most popular e-cigarette brand in the United States, in part due to its unique vape designs and use of nicotine salts rather than traditional vape juice, but also allegedly due to its aggressive marketing tactics that have led to as many as 4000 lawsuits.
Unlike any other vape manufacturer with a shred of ethics, Juul allegedly targeted children and young adults in its marketing, including recruiting influencers who were popular with children and buying advertising space on websites such as Seventeen Magazine and Nick. Jr Channel.
Due to its use of nicotine salts, which in the US could be sold in higher concentrations than is legal in the UK and this implicit targeting of consumers who cannot legally buy their vapers, Juul was accused of various crimes by US authorities, which culminated in an attempt by the FDA to ban their products entirely.
According to Forbes, Juul has faced up to $4bn worth of lawsuits and settlements related to deceptive marketing charges by government authorities alone, as well as multidistrict litigation (MDL), which is a consolidation of multiple separate cases for efficiency.
As a result of this, Altria has attempted to divest itself of its assets in Juul to invest in other e-cigarette brands.
How Is The UK Government Involved?
In a press release circulated by the Department of Health and Social Care, there is a quote included by the chief regulatory officer at Juul Labs, Joe Murillo, who called for more to be done to combat underage vaping.
This led campaigners and public health experts to criticise the government’s tacit promotion of Juul as both “inappropriate” in itself and “naive”, given Juul’s somewhat chequered history.
The reference to Juul was removed from the press release currently live on Gov UK, but can be found in an archive version of the post. No reason was given by the Department of Health and Social Care as to why this was removed, although one can likely be inferred.
Juul themselves responded that they had a “company-wide reset” in 2019 and emphasised that only nicotine users should use their products.
The vaping industry has done a lot to help improve the lives of smokers by making it easier than ever before to quit.