Vaping companies like JUUL and regulatory agencies like the FDA have traditionally had a tense relationship. Since JUUL was released in 2015, the company has been sued by school districts, state governments, and groups of individuals. As of June 2022, the FDA had banned sales of JUUL e-cigarettes, but a federal appeals court had temporarily blocked the ban. Parents of kids who vape and advocates against vaping may consider this a win, but the effects on the actual consumers are not always so evident. (1)
Logos Courtesy of juul.com, fda.gov and mycapnos.com
The Rise and Fall of Juul
Teens who started vaping around 2015 have witnessed the rise and fall of JUUL, along with policymakers’ attempts to put a curb on vaping without adequate solutions to solve the root issue to help reduce vaping usage. The messaging has stayed consistent as well, with a general stance on being anti-vaping, with little spoken about improving the relationship with vaping through education to allow everyday people to make better, cleaner decisions.
With bans on vapes having led to increased cigarette use, to bans on flavored pods resulting in the rise of flavored disposable vapes, the market has always found a way to continue feeding the craving that consumers have for what is often a solution to help cope with stress, anxiety, fidget cravings, and oral fixations. For everyday people, the cravings might not ever go away, as quitting can be a life-long journey. What happens when access to those devices get taken away?
Vape Ban Led to More Cigarettes
Vapes were meant to reduce cigarette usage, but a ban on vaping had an adverse intended effect. A 2021 study conducted by the Yale School of Public Health evaluated the odds of high school students smoking conventional cigarettes following a vape ban: “Analyses found that, after the ban’s implementation, high school students’ odds of smoking conventional cigarettes doubled in San Francisco’s school district relative to trends in districts without the ban, even when adjusting for individual demographics and other tobacco policies.”
Abigail Friedman, PhD, the study’s author, stated “While neither smoking cigarettes nor vaping nicotine are safe per se, the bulk of current evidence indicates substantially greater harms from smoking, which is responsible for one in five adult deaths annually. Even if it is well-intentioned, a law that increases youth smoking could pose a threat to public health.”
Although there has been lots of contention around the risk/reward ratio of enacting a full on vape ban, there have been less drastic actions taken such as banning flavored cartridge-based e-cigarettes. However, a new market had risen when the FDA thought they had cracked down on the issue, after sales of disposable e-cigarettes increased from 2.8 million units to 9.6 million units, a 250% increase between February 2020 and September 2021. (2)(3)
Banned Flavored Pods Led to Disposable Vapes
The numbers do not lie. Many of JUUL’s consumers realized they could no longer access mango pods and the few other fruity flavors, so when there were hundreds of flavored disposable vapes to choose from, the inevitable happened. The FDA’s response had inadvertently boosted the sale of vapes that were built for one-time use, resulting in higher costs to the consumer and greater waste.
Teens and adults were quickly attracted by the flavors, and nicotine would keep them addicted, many spending hundreds of dollars each week to supply a constant craving for a flavored nicotine buzz. As prolonged usage for the nicotine buzz has reached a high tolerance, the addiction has evolved into a behavioral addiction for an oral craving coupled with the satisfaction of the flavor.
Image Courtesy of AleksanderYu/GettyImages
The key issue at hand? The FDA, policymakers, and lung-health advocates have focused on bans and preventing use, resulting in a hamster-wheel battle against one of the largest-funded industries, without building the infrastructure and education to help everyday people affected by these very products with solving their true needs.
While all this attention is on JUUL, other vaping companies like Puff Bar (just launched in 2019) have been making over two million dollars per week in revenue by offering flavored disposable vapes made with extremely potent synthetic nicotine. As of 2021, about 53% of youth reported using disposables, with these being largely more popular among youth than then 29% who used refillable or prefilled cartridges. JUUL makes up a much smaller share within that broad category. The stated mission of the FDA is to protect public health, which admittedly can be difficult when dealing a multi-billion dollar tobacco industry notoriously known for finding ways to circumvent policy, continuing to sell products with high nicotine levels to keep people addicted. (4)
To Speak on Potential Harm or Provide Actionable Solutions?
Throughout this fanfare of legal battles, the FDA has published “The Real Cost” Campaign, focused on the harms of vaping, with efforts to prevent e-cigarette use in youth. Though it has been credited with success for preventing smoking use in the years 2014-2016, many of the youth and audience members who have viewed the newer campaign videos from 2020 have shared negative responses.
Founder and CEO of CAPNOS, Brendan Wang, had a vaping addiction for five years as a teenager, and has now dedicated his career to improving the education between vaping and smoking habits on a mission to prevent lung disease and save lives.
The twenty-two year old said, “I’ve surveyed hundreds of teenagers, students, young, and mature adults on their perceptions with these newer campaigns, learning there is an adverse intended effect: the campaigns foster a stigma of shame, and the videos utilizing fear-mongering tactics are remarked as ‘cringey,’ which creates dissonance among viewers who already vape or smoke, resulting in rebellious behaviors that further the problem.”
The attempted solutions to prevent access are also evident in schools, where bathrooms are locked and/or monitored by security, with vaping detectors placed as deterrents, and students are being suspended as punishment for being caught with using or having a vape. For every one in two kids who vape, vaping has become a coping mechanism for heightened stress and anxieties as mental health issues skyrocket to an all-time high in the wake of COVID-19. The messaging is consistently negative and does not provide actionable solutions or pathways to solve the root issues. (5)
The New Approach: Let's Talk Education and Behavioral Management
With prolonged nicotine consumption, a tolerance can build up against the substance, leading to the routine for the hand-to-mouth gesture becoming integral in the development of a behavioral addiction. The craving becomes an oral fixation for the hit itself. Internal reports and surveys with over 1,000 respondents from CAPNOS show that every two out of three people aiming to quit vaping have developed a behavioral craving.
Image Courtesy of productivitygear.quora.com
Here is the catch: not everybody wants to quit.
Millions of people who vape use it as a tool to combat cigarette smoking, and it should be respected by others as a viable option. For others, the flavors and sensation of vaping is enjoyable, outweighing any concerns for health. Many youth consumers have a future quit date in mind, often after graduation or when they may be starting full-time jobs or families. How do we reach people here? We open the conversation and invest in educational programs that can assist people in understanding their root cravings and provide alternative solutions to fulfill those gaps utilizing harm-reduction techniques or products.
Quitting nicotine products is often a life-long challenge as the cravings may not ever go away, so relapses are normal, but it requires a discipline to maintain a smoke or vape-free lifestyle. However, there is now a way to satisfy those oral fixation cravings using a behavioral aid like the CAPNOS Zero, a flavored pressurized air inhaler meant to mimic the sensation of vaping, but with no smoke, nicotine, nor charge.
The Potential for Real, Impactful Change
A partnership with Wellness AIDS Services of Flint, MI provided CAPNOS Zeros to its clients quitting tobacco with funding from the State government, and all nine participants reported achieving their goals of quitting smoking or reducing intake from as much as one pack of cigarettes a day to one stick a day. Additional testimonies from customers report life-changing success, having thousands of customers across the globe going months without relapsing on vaping or smoking. Finally, people who struggle with these oral fixations have the relief of satisfying those cravings by inhaling only the air around them, before transitioning to quit the habit entirely when ready.
We are at a pivotal moment in the history of the war against Big Tobacco. Innovation is being driven by the very people who struggled with the issue, with an approach that embodies empathy and education in a curated ecosystem of solutions that stem around community, access to effective physical tools, and the development of educational systems aimed at creating better relationships with our habits.
Leading the charge is the team at CAPNOS, aiming to further their groundbreaking discoveries on behavioral treatment methods to help contribute toward helping millions of people across the globe in their journey to quit smoking and quit vaping.
Together, with the support of advocacy groups, quit communities, and federal advancement, the future can look much brighter without the legal, and smoke fog in the air.
Brendan Wang discusses the FDA Juul Ban in the video below
- FDA Press Release on JUUL
- Ban on Flavored Vaping may Have Led teens to cigarettes, study suggests
- An E-Cigarette Market Update
- The Juul E-Cigarette Ban: Will It Make a Difference?
- Many young people turn to nicotine to deal with stress, anxiety and depression, but don’t know it may be making them feel worse
This article was written by Brendan Wang, Founder and CEO of CAPNOS.
Original posting date: July 8, 2022
Updated on July 11, 2022