Michigan joins 39 other states in JUUL probe

Getty Images

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Tuesday that Michigan has joined 39 other states in an investigation of JUUL Labs.

JUUL Labs makes products known as JUUL and JUULpods. The JUUL is the electronic vaporizer device used to smoke a JUUL Pod, which is a nicotine-containing e-liquid formula. JUUL pods come in 3% and 5% strengths and three different flavors.

Attorney General Dana Nessel | Susan J. Demas

The device and pods are marketed on JUUL Labs’ website as a “switching product” or an “alternative to cigarettes,” adding that “vaping can have a positive impact when used by adult smokers and can have a negative impact when used by nonsmokers.”

JUUL Labs adds that their goal is to maximize the positive and reduce the negative.In addition, JUUL Labs say that their products aren’t intended to be used as cessation products, including the cure or treatment of nicotine addiction, relapse prevention, or relief of nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

However, the 39-state coalition is investigating JUUL’s marketing and sales practices, including targeting of youth, claims regarding nicotine content, and statements regarding risks, safety and effectiveness as a smoking cessation device.

On JUUL’s website, the company says that it doesn’t feature images or situations intended for a youth audience, that their campaigns depict appropriately aged individuals, and that they do not use cartoons, caricatures, or other designs aimed at attracting minors.

Judge halts Michigan flavored vaping ban, Whitmer seeks Supreme Court ruling

However, a paper from the Stanford Research Into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising shows that JUUL advertisements between the company’s launch in 2015 and fall 2018 were youth-oriented.

The paper also said JUUL has deleted a large portion of its social media history. In July 2018, a JUUL spokesperson indicated that the company has worked with social media companies to remove youth-oriented content with some 4000 such posts removed from Instagram and Facebook.

Nessel said the health and safety of youths in Michigan shouldn’t be jeopardized by false advertising and deceptive marketing tactics.

“Companies that mislead customers about their products are not good corporate actors and they must be held accountable when they engage in this behavior,” said Nessel.

As previously reported by the Advance, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a ban on flavored nicotine vaping products and misleading marketing of vaping products, including the use of terms like “clean,” “safe” and “healthy” in September 2019. However, in October 2019, a state Court of Claims judge determined that a statewide ban on flavored vaping products couldn’t be enforced.

Walmart, Kroger, Walgreens to stop selling vape products

A recent survey of Michigan high schoolers showed a growing trend in the number of students who admitted to using an electronic vaping product in the past 30 days. The study looked at numbers from 2015 through 2016 compared to 2017 through 2018.

In that survey, Clinton and Oceana counties showed the largest increase of 118% – going from 11.2% and 8.7%, respectively, of students who admitted to using vaping products in the past month in 2015 through 2016 to 24.4% and 19%, respectively, in 2017 through 2018.

The highest percentage of use for 2017-18 was reported in Grand Traverse County at 38.5%.

In addition, the FDA’s National Youth Tobacco Survey states that e-cigarettes were the most commonly used tobacco product among U.S. middle and high school students overall in 2019.