Juul users are starting to say goodbye to their vape of choice

After about 25 years of smoking, Tim Marchman wanted to quit. And yet he didn’t want to become what he calls “a vaper,” the kind of person who spends hours in specialty stores choosing from dozens of electronic nicotine-delivery devices, many of them quite elaborate. So he opted for what he thought was the easiest option, Juul, a brand that for a time was practically synonymous with vaping.

“Juul is the default,” Mr. Marchman, editor of technology and science site Vice Media Motherboard, said in an interview. “It’s just plug and play.”

Unlike some other e-cigarette brands, Juul was also widely available. “At gas stations in the middle of nowhere, they have it,” Mr. Marchman said.

This is subject to change.

This week, the Food and Drug Administration ordered Juul Labs to stop selling its devices in the United States, citing insufficient and conflicting data from the company on potentially harmful chemicals that could leak from e-pods. Juul liquid.

Like other converts, Mr. Marchman says he has no plans to return to tobacco after he can no longer afford his favorite brand of e-cigarette. Still, he wonders how the FDA order will affect his habit.

“If I go out of the country, do I have to bring my vape juice with me?” said Mr. Marchman, who is 43 and lives in Philadelphia. “Where can I get it? I barely know where to get it in Philadelphia.

The decision against Juul follows years of criticism over the possible adverse health effects of the company’s products as well as how it appealed to teenagers with a range of sweet flavors including mango, creme brulee and mint, and with marketing campaigns aimed at young people.

The precursor to Juul Labs was founded in 2007 by James Monsees and Adam Bowen, two entrepreneurs who came up with the idea for a tobacco alternative during a smoke break as graduate students at the University of Stanford. When Juuls was first sold in 2015, the brand gained popularity, thanks in part to a dynamic advertising campaign that showed attractive young men and women smiling, laughing and striking poses under the word “Vaporized”.

By 2018, Juul had become so popular that the brand name became a verb, with teenagers “juuling” stealthily through classrooms and high school hallways. In the same year, Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris, agreed to pay $13 billion for a 35% stake in Juul Labs.

Then came a series of lawsuits from state attorneys general accusing the company of encouraging nicotine addiction among teens through its ad campaigns. Juul ended up paying tens of millions of dollars to settle cases in 2019 and 2021. The company’s rise and fall from Silicon Valley success story to public health pariah has been recounted in the 2021 documentary “Move Fast and Vape Things” by The New York Times.

Although Juul lost business after cutting advertising following lawsuits, it remained one of the most visible and popular e-cigarette brands on the market. For Matthew Luther, 31, who lives in Detroit and repairs leather goods, the news of the ban was heartbreaking.

“I will definitely miss the Juuls,” said Mr. Luther, 31. “I think they were better aesthetically. They are easy to put in your pocket and they are rechargeable.

Like others interviewed for this article, he said he liked the simple design of the Juul device, which resembles a USB flash drive. “The ban seems retrograde to me,” he said.

The FDA decision came just as Mr. Luther had increased his use of Juul products. “I think it’s just life, the stress, and I tried to quit,” he said.

Although Juul’s sales have declined in recent years, especially among teenagers who have turned to competitors like Puff Bar, the company once controlled up to 75% of the market. Thus, for many, the brand had become synonymous with vaping devices, as Kleenex is with tissues.

“When I think of e-cigs, I think of Juul,” said Jenny Mathison, who started using Juul products in 2018. It was the only nicotine alternative she found that allowed her to kicking the Marlboro habit she picked up in high school. , she added.

Ms Mathison, 54, who lives in Rancho Mirage, California, and cares for her disabled husband full-time, said she would likely switch to Vuse, a competing brand.

Other Juul users buy the pods and store them. (Juul has asked a federal appeals court to temporarily block the FDA order. It remains to be decided whether the company’s products will remain available in the meantime.)

For Mr. Marchman, an editor in Philadelphia, the FDA action could lead him to become the very guy he’s long feared – a vaper.

“I’m going to end up with a weird vaping platform that I don’t fully understand,” Mr. Marchman said. “I will have to choose a device, try different juices. It’s going to be quite a thing.

Sandra E. Garcia contributed report.

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