Juul: Does new e-cigarette save or cost lives?

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The rapid growth of a new brand of e-cigarette known as Juul has attracted media and public health advocates’ attention.  According to The New York Times, school officials, struggling to control an explosion of vaping among high school and middle school students across the country, fear that the devices are creating a new generation of nicotine addicts.

Since launching about two years ago, reports BuzzFeed News, Juul has become one of the hottest e-cigarettes on the market. It’s been called “the iPhone of e-cigs” and it has gained somewhat of a cult following among young adults. Shaped like a USB device and easy to conceal, Juul is made by a San Francisco-based company that has received venture capital money.

Following the playbook of cigarette and alcohol manufacturers, who long ago learned that the best way to market their products to children and young people was to claim they were only for adults, Ashley Gould, the chief administrative officer of Juul, told the Times that the company’s products are intended solely for adults who want to quit smoking. Among the flavors Juul markets are fruit medley and crème brulee.

A new study published in PLOS One assesses the net gains and losses from the spread of  vaping.  The authors calculated the expected years of life gained or lost from the impact of e-cigarette use on smoking cessation among current smokers and transition to long-term cigarette smoking among never smokers for the 2014 US population cohort.  Their conclusion: “e-cigarette use currently represents more population-level harm than benefit. Effective national, state, and local efforts are needed to reduce e-cigarette use among youth and young adults if e-cigarettes are to confer a net population-level benefit in the future.”

To counteract the rapid spread of e-cigarettes, seven public health and medical groups, and several individual pediatricians, filed suit in federal court in Maryland challenging a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decision that allows electronic cigarettes and cigars – including candy-flavored products that appeal to kids – to stay on the market for years without being reviewed by the agency. According to Industrial Safety and Hygiene News,  The lawsuit was filed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and its Maryland chapter, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Truth Initiative and five individual pediatricians.

Although the groups strongly support the FDA’s new efforts to reduce nicotine levels in cigarettes to minimally or non-addictive levels, they also believe that the FDA’s August 2017 decision to exempt e-cigarettes and cigars from agency review for years to come is unlawful and harms public health.