The fruit flavor fallacy, the misguided belief that sweet e-juice flavors were created to hook children, is one of the most ridiculous zombie vaping myths
. Unfortunately, a spike in underage vaping has been framed as a teen vaping epidemic
and the blame has been placed on these flavors. The reality is far different. The majority of adult vapers prefer sweeter flavors.
Juul in the FDA's Crosshairs
As the biggest player in the vaping industry, Juul has been the obvious target of regulators and anti-vapers. Marlboro maker Altria purchasing a 35 percent stake in Juul
did nothing to enhance their anti-smoking crusader bona fides, but they were already a primary target of new FDA e-cig regulations
Juul removed their sweet and dessert flavors from brick and mortar establishments in response to the pressure. As with all regulatory moves, there were several immediate consequences. The first was that isolated urban and rural populations are now denied their choice of smoking alternative and funneled back towards cigarettes. Iowa AG Thomas Miller warned the FDA
about this exact outcome.
It is an established fact that the the wealthy have long since given up smoking. The harsh reality is that strict e-cig laws punish marginalized groups,
but this does not resonate in the circles where these sorts of decisions are made.
Juul Sales Sliding in 2019
The second blow was to the San Francisco based e-cig giant’s bottom line. The Winston Salem Journal
reports that Juul’s market share dipped from 75.8 to 73.8 percent in four week period ending on January 26, 2019. Overall, the vaping industry is still predicted to grow from 7 to 9 billion in the US. But this is Juul's first set back and it will be interesting to see how strongly they rebound.
The same Nielsen sales data found that rival Vuse, made by R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co., increased their own share of the market from 10 to 11.6 percent. Vuse did not follow Juul's lead and pull their sweeter flavors. It remains to be seen how effectively they can retain these new customers.
The now defunct MarkTen
took the bronze medal with 6.6 percent. Blu eCigs was fourth with 6 percent, and Logic was a distant fifth at 2.7 percent.
Regulators Halt Juul's Momentum
A two percent drop may not sound like much, but it is the first sign that an unrestrained period of growth is finally coming to a close. A year ago, Juul had 51.6 percent of the market and Vuse 16.9. Any slow down in growth is a bad sign for Juul, whose enormous market valuation is based on their ability to dominate the brick and mortar e-cig space. Juul is still in a strong position but this retraction is proof that increased regulations can have an immediate impact on their bottom line.
It remains to be seen if this decline was a temporary hiccup or the first sign that regulatory headwinds have halted Juul’s momentum. Juul plans on reintroducing their sweet and fruit flavors to establishments that adhere to proper age verification procedures.The entire vaping industry faces an existential danger if the issue of minors vaping is not resolved to the FDA's satisfaction.
Juul Done Appeasing Critics
Emboldened by their alliance with Altria, it appears that Juul is done rolling over and will begin to fight back. They had already begun to hire lobbyists in an effort to blunt the attacks of their critics before Altria's buy-in. Gone are the days when bizarre complaints about the name Crème Brule, an upscale dessert that peaked in popularity a decade before today’s high school students were born, sent Juul scampering for new packaging.
In an unprecedented move, Juul plans on launching a television advertising campaign. Nicotine products have not been seen on the airwaves in decades at this point. Despite their temporary pullback from retail outlets, Juul's relationship with Altria will allow them to control premium shelf space at gas stations and convenience stores.
Juul even proposed including informational packets in Marlboro cigarettes that extol the virtues of their device. Their efforts to spin this as a public service, rather than a transparent marketing ploy, have been largely unsuccessful. No matter what the critics say, if this plan gets off the ground it would give them an inside track to millions of potential customers.
In order to fight the anecdotes and misrepresentations of anti-vapers, Juul released a study which demonstrated the beneficial role that flavors can play for smokers looking to transition to e-cigs
. This survey was soon overshadowed by the monumental New England Journal of Medicine study which demonstrated that e-cigs were nearly twice as effective as nicotine replacement therapy for smoking cessation
. The NEJM study did not test the efficacy of Juul’s device but instead used a classic 650 mAh cartomizer system.