FDA to restrict sale of flavored Juul pods to fight teen vaping

Flavored pods make getting into Juuling easier for teens.
Image: scott olson/Getty Images

It’s like taking candy away from a baby.

The FDA will move to ban Juul’s fun flavors from most convenience stores to fight teen use of the product, reports the New York Times. The agency will also require stricter age verification measures for buying Juuls online.

The new policies are part of the FDA’s investigation into teens’ love of the product, and whether Juul itself is to blame. In September, the FDA gave JUUL 60 days to introduce new initiatives to fight teen use. Now that time has expired, the FDA is taking action themselves. The restrictions will also apply to other big tobacco companies that sell flavored nicotine pods. The FDA will reportedly share further details of the plan the week of November 12. 

Juul pods come in mango, cucumber, fruit, and creme, in addition to mint, menthol, Virginia tobacco, and classic tobacco. The FDA won’t allow gas stations and convenience stores to sell the more teen-friendly flavors: mango, cucumber, fruit, and creme. Vape shops and other “specialty retailers” will still be able to sell all the flavors, according to Reuters.

There aren’t details yet about how the stricter age verifications will work. Juul already restricts all online sales of its products to its own website, and is fighting counterfeiters who sell fake Juuls all over the internet. This is part of their push to curb teen vaping, because the Juul site already requires shoppers to verify their age with their social security number.

Juul’s age verification page.

Image: screenshot: rachel kraus/mashable/juul

Juul’s age verification page.

Image: SCREENSHOT: RACHEL KRAUS/MASHABLE/JUUL

Juul bills itself as a way to help adult smokers quit; it says that if you have never smoked, you should never start Juuling. But Juul has 70 percent of the market share of vaping devices. And Juuls in particular are the beloved e-cig brand of the high school set; “Juuling” is all over teenage social media, and a University of Michigan survey even found that 1 in 4 high school seniors said they vaped in 2017.

Going after flavored pods may be a good step in fighting teen use. The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids reported that flavored pods might be easing the runway into vaping: 81 percent of 12-17 year olds “who had ever used e-cigarettes had used a flavored e-cigarette the first time they tried the product,” their report reads. And flavored pods remain popular even after the first time: “81.5 percent of current youth e-cigarette users said they used e-cigarettes “because they come in flavors I like.”

Given that research, restricting sales of the flavors might deter some first time Juulers. Although, plenty of companies sell other flavored pods that still work with Juuls.

However, the Campaign — and anyone who has eyes — first attributes the rise of Juul to the “sleek design” and easy ability to hide the activity from adults. That is, like so many other trends, it’s the rebellious, aesthetic cool-factor of Juul that has made it so popular with teenagers — not just fun flavors. 

Juuling is also a verb all its own that specifically does not look like smoking; it’s a necessarily nonchalant action in the same way smoking was, but with an under the radar swagger all its own.

That aura is something harder for the FDA to regulate. The cool factor (and subsequent use) of cigarettes has only ebbed as the adverse health effects and stigma have taken precedence over the James Dean look. Teens also reportedly don’t view vapes as being that bad for them, despite current research indicating that vaping comes with health risks all its own. 

Juul and the FDA have a long road ahead of them if they’re both committed, together, to getting teens to stop Juuling. Making mango pods slightly harder to buy isn’t the end of the road.

Read more: http://mashable.com/

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This post is part of our High-tech High series, which explores weed innovations, and our cultural relationship with cannabis, as legalization in several U.S. states, Canada, and Uruguay moves the market further out of the shadows.


For many, the days of palming eighths from a seedy dealer are over — as states scramble to legalize recreational and medical marijuana, consuming weed has become sleeker, cleaner, and more complicated

With the influx of cannabis-related products in legal states, shopping for weed is all the more confusing. How much THC should you look for in your vape pods? What the hell is a terpene? Should your vapes produce massive mango-scented clouds? 

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of flavors to try, much less the kind of high you’re trying to achieve. 

“There’s a unique synergy that goes on with those molecules,” Jeffrey Raber said over a phone call. Raber has a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Southern California and founded The Werc Shop, one of the first research laboratories testing cannabis. 

According to Raber, recreational users aren’t just looking to get high, but are seeking specific effects “based on these molecules being present.” 

Here’s the rundown on what you should look for in a good cannabis oil vape, often just referred to as a  pen.

Sativa or Indica?

If you’ve ever passed around a joint, you’ve probably asked the seminal question for all stoners: Is this a sativa or indica? 

While indica-dominant strains are known for the most stereotypical, clouded “couch lock” high, sativas claim to promote creativity with a clear mind. Raber says that’s mostly bullshit. 

“The potential for these effects is absolutely real,” he said. “Do they come from those plants labeled or designated as those types of botany definitions? That’s very mixed up.” 

Here’s the thing: Labeling something as a sativa or indica doesn’t tell you much except what the plant looks like. Cultivators still categorize strains by indica and sativa labels to denote growth patterns and physical traits. As Weedmaps puts it, “Botanists use these terms to classify plants on the basis of shared characteristics, not on their effects on the human body.”

“It’s unfair to tell an insomniac an ‘indica-like’ plant is going to give you a sedative effect and you’ll be able to sleep better, when in fact it may not,” Raber said.

According to Raber, most strains are pretty hybridized at this point. If you’re looking for a specific kind of high, you should keep an eye out for terpenes. 

What the heck is a terpene?

Terpenes are oils found in all plant life — Raber calls them the “fundamental building blocks” for flora to communicate with the world around it, from attracting insects to releasing scents.

“Different terpene mixtures will define what makes different cultivar strains of cannabis,” Raber said. If you remove the THC and CBD from a strain, the defining factors differentiating each strain are the terpenes present.

Lavender oil, for example contains linalool, a terpene found to induce relaxation and reduce anxiety. When combined with CBD, it can produce a sedative-like high. 

Researchers have found that terpenes work along with cannabinoids like CBD and THC to have an “ensemble” or “entourage” effect. 

“Cannabinoids are important for turning it on,” Raber explained. “But which direction is goes is gonna be determined by which terpenes and other minor cannabinoids are around them.”

So if a cannabinoid — like THC, for example — is your acceleration, then terpenes are your steering wheel. Instead of falling for what Raber calls the “name game” of increasingly bizarre labels for new strains, the chemist suggest “trusting your nose.”

“In the absence of test data, try and smell it!” he said.

Is more THC a good thing?

There’s no doubt that weed is way stronger than it used to be. But a higher THC content doesn’t necessarily yield a better high. Although some brands boast pods that clock in at 90 percent THC, Raber warns against consuming products like that.

“It’s either bad testing or devoid of terpenes,” he said. Raber reasons that a pod with 80 percent THC that includes 10 percent terpenes will be “much stronger” than anything that measures 90 percent or more THC. 

“They really add to the effect,” he said. “It’s important that you’ve got a well-rounded composition with many components as opposed to just THC.” 

Cutting agents? Fillers?

If you create massive vape clouds every time you take a hit, it’s probably not a good sign. Although juuls and other nicotine pens are known for producing fruity cumulus-like puffs, cannabis vapes shouldn’t. 

Raber says there are “much better” alternatives to the fillers used in nicotine pens. 

“This is a much different set of molecules that you can deliver in different ways,” he insisted. While nicotine is more water soluble, Raber says, cannabinoids and terpenes are oil soluble. 

But you can’t just put extracted oil in a cartridge and expect it to have the same effect as lighting the bud and inhaling its smoke. To get around the complicated hassle of figuring out a well-rounded compound, companies “cut” the viscous oil with additives to sell cheaper, lower quality products. 

There are four widely used cutting agents: Polyethylene glycol (PEG), Propylene glycol (PG), Vegetable glycerin, and coconut oil. Since vegetable glycerin is “more like water,” according to Raber, it’s unlikely you’d find it in a weed vape. And while coconut oil and other fatty acids blend beautifully for tinctures, they’re not ideal for vaping because they tend to dry out more quickly. 

PEG and PG aren’t great for you either; As Rolling Stone pointed out in an investigation on vape pen safety, “A study from 2010 showed inhaling propylene glycol can exacerbate asthma and allergies, and multiple studies have shown that propylene glycol and polyethylene glycol break down into carcinogens formaldehyde and acetaldehyde — especially when vaped at high temperatures.”

Just avoid cutting agents at all costs — Raber suggest looking for cartridges that use terpene-based fillers, both for a better high and healthier lungs. 

Personalization and predictability 

As recreational users figure out what kind of high they want, vaping has become more personalized, and more predictable. 

Dosist, formerly branded as hmbldt, manufactures impossibly aesthetic weed pens that administer a precise 2.25 mg dose of vaporized cannabis with every hit. A review in the Atlantic compared the little pens to “if Muji made a tampon.” The pens come in six different categories, including “sleep” and “arouse,” defined by desired mood instead of by flavor or strain. 

“Dose is critical to any therapeutic tool and it’s no different with cannabis,” dosist CEO Gunner Winston said in a emailed statement. “If you don’t know how much or what formulation you’re ingesting, you can’t effectively manage or predict the benefits.” 

The PAX vape battery has a similar philosophy; the powerful little PAX Era allows the user to adjust the temperature, potency, and flavor via an app. An app!! According to its product description, wants users to “achieve session predictability.” 

Look for the same high every time

Predictability is something that Raber wants to see more in the cannabis industry — sure, you may be able to finally get the precise kind of high you were looking for, but can you recreate that? Are your reactions consistent? There are few regulations that require growers to continually produce plants and compounds with consistent results.

“As a consumer, am I getting the same thing every time?” he asked. “And then I can start to count on it and fine-tune what compositions I like and my desired effects.” “

In California, where The Werc Shop is based, Raber wants to see stricter statewide regulations that would require companies to include not only the THC and CBD percentage of their products, but the terpenes and cutting agents included as well. He believes that greater transparency will allow people to have more control of the high they’re seeking. Brands and manufacturers are already pushing for it. 

“The people have spoken, all over the place, that we want to know more about this plant, we want access to this plant,” Raber said, referencing the push for nationwide legalization. “Now the question has become, ‘Which version of the plant?'”

Read more: http://mashable.com/

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Here’s where things stand with marijuana after the midterms

An ever-expanding matrix of marijuana data is delivering ever more precise experiences to an ever-wider audience.

An ever-expanding matrix of marijuana data is delivering ever more precise experiences to an ever-wider audience.

An ever-expanding matrix of marijuana data is delivering ever more precise experiences to an ever-wider audience.

An ever-expanding matrix of marijuana data is delivering ever more precise experiences to an ever-wider audience.

Image: BOB AL-GREENE / MASHABLE

This post is part of our High-tech High series, which explores weed innovations, and our cultural relationship with cannabis, as legalization in several U.S. states, Canada, and Uruguay moves the market further out of the shadows.


If you want to imagine the future of marijuana in the 2020s, picture a 3-D printer. 

Maybe it’s in a kiosk at your local legal recreational dispensary; maybe, if you’re a particular fan of greenery, it’s in your home. Either way, it’s pre-loaded with concentrated liquid forms of all  cannabinoids, the different kinds of molecules that make up marijuana. 

The machine has CBD for healing, CBN for sleepiness, THC for the giddy, giggly high; plus a ton of essential oils called terpenes, which generally provide every other subtle effect you’ve ever noticed with weed.

But you don’t need to sort them yourself. Via the kiosk screen, or 3D-printing mobile app, you select the effects you want to induce. Calm or hyped up? Uplifted or mellowed out? Creative or couch-locked? Or somewhere in the middle? The printer starts work on a mix of ingredients, which is composited based on an ever-growing, ever-evolving database of feedback from users like you.

All that remains is to choose your mode of delivery: wax for high-temperature, high-intensity dabbing; a liquid concentrate vape pen with precise microdosing ability; an edible; a strip that goes under your tongue; a nasal spray for those who want a fast-acting, 15 to 90 minute high. 

Later, you’ll be asked to rate the result, which will help other users achieve the common goal: never having a negative or unexpected cannabis experience ever again.  

A print-your-own-weed machine may sound like stoner science fiction, but there are startups in America right now hard at work on each element of it. Indeed, with legalization sweeping the nation and venture capital following in its wake, we’re entering a golden age of weed delivery technology — not to mention biotech that is only just starting to figure out exactly what this most versatile of drugs actually does to us, and how we can tweak that. 

A company called Altopa plans to deliver the Oblend, a printer-like DIY “home dispensary” device, in 2019 for $949. Another called Verra Wellness has just started selling a “nasal mist” for what it calls “transmucosal delivery of cannabinoids” (translation: stick pot up your nose). Enthuses one user: “I was very clear headed; I took it for work to help me focus and problem-solve without feeling overwhelmed.” 

Peak Experience

This is a common thread in the golden age of weed tech. The industry is leaving all the clichés about Doritos and forgetfulness behind, and embracing the other possibilities of a drug that is way more varied in its effects than alcohol. 

Users have had enough of the high-THC, ditzy, paranoid high — or rather, they know where to find that already. As any popular dispensary will tell you, the race for strains that simply have the highest THC content is no longer the only game in town, or even the main game. The mainstream is here. Thousands of regular consumers in newly legal states (and Canada), some of whom may not have smoked for decades, want the effects to be more subtle, creative and functional: an office-friendly buzz. 

“I want cannabis to enhance, not dumb down,” says Roger Volodarsky, Los Angeles-based founder of high-concept vaporizer company Puffco. “Personally, I find it to be much closer to coffee than to alcohol.” 

“Weed tech” is now definitely a thing.

I’d never have known it, but Volodarsky admitted to having a few hits before our interview. He’d been using his product, the Puffco Peak — a sleek battery-powered “smart bong” that retails for $370. The Peak was one of the most anticipated weed tech products at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (where yeah, “weed tech” is now definitely a thing.)  

That’s because it takes dabbing out of the realm of power users, who stick cannabis wax to a nail and blast it with a torch, and brings it into the realm of people who would consider what one review called “the Keurig of cannabis,” and also “what Apple would design” if it was in the marijuana business. 

Dabbing, which produces a large blast of clouds, may sound terrifying to moderate tokers. Still, Volodarsky is on a mission to convert them all. The advantage, he says, is that the dabbing process vaporizes all the good stuff and none of the CBN — a sleepy, dissociative cannibanoid that is barely even known among casual users yet. (Hey, they’re only just caught up with the whole CBD thing.) 

“If you’re talking about zoning in, quieting the noise, finding what drives you — this is what does it,” Volodarsky boasts of the Peak experience. “I don’t work as hard on days I don’t dab.” 

Colorful varities of edible and drinkable marijuana on sale in a Las Vegas dispensary.

Image: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Talking to startup folks like Volodarsky about what technology will do for weed, my first surprising conclusion was that strains are increasingly seen as an outdated way of talking about cannabis. In fact, the future is likely more about blending specific cannabinoid molecules like CBN than growing new cutesey-named strains like Gorilla Glue or Girl Scout Cookies. 

Why? First of all, the content of various plant strains seem to vary from one grower to the next; there’s no standardization. Secondly, thanks to all that drug war-era experimentation, most strains are hybrids of some sort, even the ones that claim to be all indica (generally thought of as the body high) or all sativa (the head high stuff). Cast those concepts from your mind, because cannabis experts are increasingly calling for an end to the simplistic indica/sativa division. But molecules don’t vary. 

“We’re bringing a lot more consistency to this,” says Tristan Watkins, Chief Science Officer of a Denver company called LucidMood. “We can control what goes in, instead of you having to hope that your Super Lemon Haze is what it says it is, and doesn’t have some terpene that makes you groggy.”

LucidMood makes a variety of vape pens that are named for their desired effect: Energy, Chill, Party, Bliss, Relax, Calm, Relief, Focus, Sleep and Lift. The only thing they all have in common: they all contain 40 percent THC, 40 percent CBD and 20 percent terpenes.

The 1:1 ratio of THC and CBD is becoming more popular in the cannabis business, since it’s thought of as an ideal mix that allows casual users to be in control of their experience. You can’t dilute vape pen concentrate (or if you did, you’d be using the kind of chemical thinning agents you really don’t want to vaporize). 

“We make it newbie-proof,” says Watkins. “A normal vape pen is super strong. I’d never hand it to my mom.” 

Watkins has a Ph.D in neurology, for which he studied the effect of cannabis and its many compounds on the brain. What became clear to him: “We’re just scratching the surface” in terms of our understanding of the plant. 

We know THC increases blood flow to the brain and acts on the dopamine system, which is what makes everything seem important. We know it usually quietens the pre-frontal cortex, which makes it easier to do new things or let creative ideas bubble up without what Watkins calls “the helicopter mom in your head telling you to move on.” But beyond that, we’re only just beginning to learn how it acts on the biological system (known as the endocannabinoid system) that regulates appetite, mood, and memory. 

So how does LucidMood decide on the names of those 1:1 vape pens? Mainly by playing around with the terpene oils, where there’s a larger body of science telling us about their effects on humans. The company then does a placebo-controlled study (in the sense that one group of participants gets a regular 1:1 vape pen, making it probably the only placebo study in which everyone really gets high). 

Watkins catalogs the effects most users describe from the terpene-loaded pen, and if it matches up with what LucidMood expected, the pen is good to go. Science in action!

Just to make sure the newbies don’t overdo it, LucidMood pens automatically shut off after 5 seconds. That puts them in the same category as the Pax Era, the popular vape pen from the company that used to make the Juul e-cigarette. 

As of this summer, you’re able to “sip” your Pax in a “microdose“; you have to wait a couple of minutes before it’ll let you vape again. Microdosing is so popular with its customers that the company told me it’s looking into applying the technology to its larger Pax 3 vaporizer, which uses actual plant matter. A startup called Potbiotics may have beaten Pax to the punch with the Ryah, which it claims is the world’s first dose-measuring flower vaporizer. 

On the other hand, much of this technology could be ephemeral, as is the case in any fast-moving startup space, but perhaps more so in one where there are still many distractions. Potbiotics first offered to send me a test Ryah back in August; as of November, it has yet to materialize. 

Take a tour of my inbox and you’ll discover hundreds of weed-related pitches from companies that could either be the future or gone tomorrow. There’s an edible that dissolves in your mouth leaving no residue, called QuickStrip; Annabis, a line of high-end handbags that hide the smell of weed; cannabis marshmallows called Mellows; a tiny, powerful 4-inch disposable vape pen called The Little Chicken; an early stage startup called Form Factory with a patented “micro-encapsulation” technique that helps make edibles more consistent. 

When a thousand high-tech flowers are blooming like this, it can be hard to draw conclusions about the consumer needs they’re trying to fill, or whether they’re more interested in differentiating themselves through marketing. There’s an argument to be made that most startups are not being innovative enough; too many are simply putting new skins on the same old vape pen technology. 

“I’ve been underwhelmed by innovation in the cannabis space,” says Puffco’s Roger Volodarsky. “Everyone’s just trying to make the same herbal vaporizer. The only impressive new gadget I’ve seen lately is an electric grinder.” 

Still, some signals can be discerned in all this noise: We want weed to be discreet. We want it to be a delicious experience, whether in edible or vape form. And we want to customize it in endless configurations to match our desired mood and level of productivity — even if we can’t 3-D print it at home just yet. 

The high-tech marijuana age is underway, and it’s taking us in directions we can only imagine. The only place the industry isn’t going is backwards, to a world of smoking inconsistent strains where you don’t know what effect you’re going to get. 

Read more: http://mashable.com/

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JUUL asks Instagram and other companies to remove teen vaping content

Juul wants social media companies to police underage Juuling images on their platforms.
Image: EVA HAMBACH/AFP/Getty Images

Is this the end of JUUL memes?

JUUL announced a number of new measures to try to prevent teens from using its products on Tuesday.

Notably, it will stop allowing retailers to sell flavored pods until they install advanced age verification software from JUUL. The company is also discontinuing its own Facebook and Instagram accounts, and has asked social media companies to help remove youth-oriented JUUL content from its platforms — including the prohibition of posts depicting JUULing and vaping by underage users. 

The new initiatives come days after it was reported that the FDA would prohibit convenience stores and gas stations from selling flavored pods. Rather than wait for FDA enforcement, JUUL has apparently taken proactive measures that go further than the FDA’s new policy. The FDA would have allowed tobacco and specialty vape shops to continue selling flavored pods, while JUUL’s new retailer policy will only allow this if the shops use JUUL’s Social Security number-matching age verification software.

“Our intent was never to have youth use JUUL products,” JUUL CEO Kevin Burns wrote in the statement. “But intent is not enough, the numbers are what matter, and the numbers tell us underage use of e-cigarette products is a problem. We must solve it.”

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Flavors are on the front line in the fight against youth vaping. The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids says that flavors make it easier for young people to start vaping. So now, the Mango, Fruit, Creme, and Cucumber JUULpod flavors are only available through JUUL’s website.

To buy anything on JUUL’s site, users already have to verify their age and identity with their Social Security numbers. JUUL said that that process is about to get even stricter: by the end of the year, JUUL will also require two-factor authentication to create an account, and it will even use “a real-time photo requirement to match a user’s face against an uploaded I.D.”

JUUL said it’s also continuing its fight against counterfeiters and unauthorized sellers in its attempt to ensure its own site (with age verification) is the only place people can buy the product. 

Another big part of JUUL’s attempt to curb teen use is social media. In July, JUUL discontinued using models on social media in order to stop glamorizing the product. But JUUL images and memes have spread on social media outside of JUUL’s own social presence; the #DoIt4Juul hashtag on Instagram has over 7,200 posts, many conspicuously by teenagers, about how they love their JUULs.

JUUL notes that while it never had a Snapchat, even removing its Facebook and Instagram presence is a small part of the larger social media battle.

“User-generated social media posts involving JUUL products or our brand are proliferating across platforms and must be swiftly addressed,” Burns wrote. “There is no question that this user-generated social media content is linked to the appeal of vaping to underage users.”

JUUL says that it has already worked with social media companies to remove “thousands” of pieces of JUUL content that encourage teen vaping. But it also says that it has reached out to Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter for additional help curbing this content on their platforms. 

“We have asked Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat for their assistance in policing unauthorized, youth-oriented content on their platforms,” Burns wrote. “We asked that each platform prohibit the posting of any content that promotes the use of cigarettes or e-cigarettes by underage users.”

Snap told Mashable that it already prohibits all posts marketing tobacco products to people of all ages, not just teens. The company did not say whether it would work to prevent the actual posting of JUUL content by underage users, or offer any further comment on JUUL’s request. Twitter and Instagram declined to comment. Mashable did not hear back from Facebook or JUUL before this article was published. 

Social media companies are already grappling with how to police content on their platforms, and may not be eager to add another thorny item to their to-do lists. Then again, fighting teen vaping may be much more straightforward than, say, hate speech, so this is an initiative where social media companies could have a positive impact.

The FDA is still investigating whether JUUL may have marketed products to teens. It has also undertaken a $60 million ad campaign to educate teens about the risks of vaping, which include addiction to nicotine and other health risks. 

After months of negative headlines, JUUL has gone above and beyond the FDA’s requests, and seems eager to be seen as a partner, not an adversary, in the fight against teen vaping. 

Read more: http://mashable.com/

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Juul Labs sues Chinese counterfeiters illegally selling fake Juuls

Counterfeit or the real thing? Depends where you buy it.
Image: Brianna Soukup/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

It’s a sue and be sued world out there!

In August, Juul Labs filed trademark claims against 30 entities in China selling counterfeit Juul products on Ebay. Now, the company has announced that a federal court granted the company a temporary restraining order over the accounts, and froze the counterfeiters’ PayPals. Take that, counterfeiters!

For Juul, this isn’t a simple matter of copyright infringement, though. The company is fighting to reduce teenage use of the product, especially in light of a FDA investigation into why teens love Juuls so much (and whether that’s Juul’s fault). And maintaining control over online sales that are age-verified is a crucial component of that campaign.

Legitimate Juul products are only available online through Juul’s website. However, as of this writing, there were over 2,000 listings for Juul or Juul-related products on Ebay. Any Juul device or pod you might see on Ebay or elsewhere that’s not Juul’s website directly comes from a counterfeiter, or an unauthorized seller. 

But selling Juul directly through the company’s own site isn’t just important to controlling the company’s cashflow, or even for verifying that the product is the real deal. Keeping Juul’s site as the sole online seller is crucial to ensuring that teens don’t purchase the e-cigs online. 

“Keeping JUUL out of the hands of young people is a priority for us,” Victoria Davis, a Juul Labs spokesperson told Mashable over email. “We have a strict and industry-leading age-verification process on our Web site so no one under the age of 21 can access JUUL. However, counterfeiters do not utilize the same type of age verification systems, which may enable minors to purchase products.” 

Juul’s site requires users to register with their social security numbers in order to verify that they’re over 21. So circumventing Juul’s commerce system means that the counterfeiters are actually undermining the company’s very intentional efforts to keep the cute lil’ vapes out of the hands of kids.

Juul is going after the counterfeiters through the legal system, as well as directly with sales platforms like Ebay and Amazon. But Davis described the hunt for counterfeiters as a “challenge” because the sellers can easily make new profiles. That isn’t deterring Juul, though, since more counterfeiters are popping up as the company grows.

“The prevalence of counterfeiters has increased dramatically over the last year consistent with JUUL’s rise in the marketplace,” Davis said. “The process of tracking and identifying the culprits of counterfeit products is time intensive. We have dedicated resources to this initiative to ensure these products stay off the market and out of hands of underage users.”

In other words, Juul’s attempts to go after counterfeiters is like USB-vape whack-a-mole. And the nicotine habits of kids are on the line. 

Read more: http://mashable.com/

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FDA to restrict sale of flavored Juul pods to fight teen vaping

Flavored pods make getting into Juuling easier for teens.
Image: scott olson/Getty Images

It’s like taking candy away from a baby.

The FDA will move to ban Juul’s fun flavors from most convenience stores to fight teen use of the product, reports the New York Times. The agency will also require stricter age verification measures for buying Juuls online.

The new policies are part of the FDA’s investigation into teens’ love of the product, and whether Juul itself is to blame. In September, the FDA gave JUUL 60 days to introduce new initiatives to fight teen use. Now that time has expired, the FDA is taking action themselves. The restrictions will also apply to other big tobacco companies that sell flavored nicotine pods. The FDA will reportedly share further details of the plan the week of November 12. 

Juul pods come in mango, cucumber, fruit, and creme, in addition to mint, menthol, Virginia tobacco, and classic tobacco. The FDA won’t allow gas stations and convenience stores to sell the more teen-friendly flavors: mango, cucumber, fruit, and creme. Vape shops and other “specialty retailers” will still be able to sell all the flavors, according to Reuters.

There aren’t details yet about how the stricter age verifications will work. Juul already restricts all online sales of its products to its own website, and is fighting counterfeiters who sell fake Juuls all over the internet. This is part of their push to curb teen vaping, because the Juul site already requires shoppers to verify their age with their social security number.

Juul’s age verification page.

Image: screenshot: rachel kraus/mashable/juul

Juul’s age verification page.

Image: SCREENSHOT: RACHEL KRAUS/MASHABLE/JUUL

Juul bills itself as a way to help adult smokers quit; it says that if you have never smoked, you should never start Juuling. But Juul has 70 percent of the market share of vaping devices. And Juuls in particular are the beloved e-cig brand of the high school set; “Juuling” is all over teenage social media, and a University of Michigan survey even found that 1 in 4 high school seniors said they vaped in 2017.

Going after flavored pods may be a good step in fighting teen use. The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids reported that flavored pods might be easing the runway into vaping: 81 percent of 12-17 year olds “who had ever used e-cigarettes had used a flavored e-cigarette the first time they tried the product,” their report reads. And flavored pods remain popular even after the first time: “81.5 percent of current youth e-cigarette users said they used e-cigarettes “because they come in flavors I like.”

Given that research, restricting sales of the flavors might deter some first time Juulers. Although, plenty of companies sell other flavored pods that still work with Juuls.

However, the Campaign — and anyone who has eyes — first attributes the rise of Juul to the “sleek design” and easy ability to hide the activity from adults. That is, like so many other trends, it’s the rebellious, aesthetic cool-factor of Juul that has made it so popular with teenagers — not just fun flavors. 

Juuling is also a verb all its own that specifically does not look like smoking; it’s a necessarily nonchalant action in the same way smoking was, but with an under the radar swagger all its own.

That aura is something harder for the FDA to regulate. The cool factor (and subsequent use) of cigarettes has only ebbed as the adverse health effects and stigma have taken precedence over the James Dean look. Teens also reportedly don’t view vapes as being that bad for them, despite current research indicating that vaping comes with health risks all its own. 

Juul and the FDA have a long road ahead of them if they’re both committed, together, to getting teens to stop Juuling. Making mango pods slightly harder to buy isn’t the end of the road.

Read more: http://mashable.com/

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The anti-smoking giant that wants to stop JUUL

Don't try this at home, kids.
Image: LILI SAMS/MASHABLE

JUUL is the vape giant that went from zero to $16 billion in three years. Truth Initiative is the largest anti-smoking organization in the United States.

Both the company and the non-profit claim to have the same goal: helping smokers quit tobacco cigarettes. But Robin Koval, CEO and president of Truth Initiative, hasn’t been shy about slamming JUUL. 

“The fact that JUUL is acting like, ‘What, young people are using JUUL? We never intended that to happen,’ is a little disingenuous,” she said. 

Oh yes, that. Teenagers love JUUL. Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat are filled with #juul references. These days, downtime at college is basically all about posting Stories of yourself JUULing to Drake. 

The devices are sleek, small, and everywhere. There’s no need to refill them with liquid — just pop in a new JUULpod. They even recharge via USB.

Unlike some vapes, they deliver a lot of nicotine. The company says each JUULpod contains 5 percent nicotine, about as much as a pack of cigarettes. Early on, the company reached plenty of young people on social media with ads of models living their best #vapelife. 

The blowback from parents and the press has been severe. In response, JUUL removed models from its feeds, which now only feature ex-smokers sharing their stories. It committed $30 million to fighting underage use of its products. The company also has a secret shopping program to carry out “random compliance checks” to make sure retail stores aren’t selling to minors. 

Koval wants JUUL to do more. She dismissed the $30 million that JUUL is spending as a “rounding error” for a company that just raised $1.2 billion from investors. 

“Frankly, if they really wanted to do something to impact youth sales, they could voluntarily comply with all of the rules that got postponed until 2022,” she said. 

During the Obama administration, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined that e-cigarette makers would have to submit their products for review by this summer. Trump administration officials delayed that deadline until 2022, saying that it didn’t want to stifle innovation. 

JUUL said that it supports “effective legislation and regulation,” but hasn’t stated support for the FDA rules. And the company has spent $240,000 on lobbyists in hopes of influencing e-cig regulations, according to Wired

And not everyone is convinced that $30 million will keep young people from trying JUUL.

“Tobacco companies have a long history of creating and promoting their own programs which they say are for ‘youth smoking prevention,'” said Pamela Ling, professor at the University of California, San Francisco. Those programs were simply “PR tools to avoid regulation,” she said. And JUUL could be following the same strategy. 

“As far as I know, there is no published evidence that the JUUL youth program actually decreases youth use of JUUL.”

Then there’s the issue of teen-friendly flavors, most notably mango and “fruit medley.” Koval wants them off the market. JUUL insists fruity flavors help smokers who “don’t want to be reminded of the tobacco-taste of a cigarette.” 

There’s evidence that vaping could lead teenagers to try traditional cigs — the ultimate nightmare for anti-smoking activists 

Helping smokers quit is a noble goal, of course. A study published earlier this year by University of Michigan researchers concluded that the “benefits outweigh the risks” when it comes to vaping — essentially, they save more lives by helping smokers quit than cost lives by hooking new smokers with nicotine. 

Tobacco kills more than 7 million people each year, according to the World Health Organization. Several experts — including Koval — say it’s better for people to vape than smoke tobacco cigarettes. But do they actually help people quit? Some studies say they’re effective. On the other hand, a Georgia State University study from July found no evidence that vape use helped adult smokers quit at higher rates than smokers who didn’t vape. 

For teens, the stakes are even higher. Nicotine addiction could “harm the developing adolescent brain” and cause attention and mood disorders, said Adam Leventhal, director of the University of Southern California’s Health, Emotion, & Addiction Laboratory. And earlier this year, a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found evidence that vaping could lead teenagers to try traditional tobacco cigarettes — the ultimate nightmare for anti-smoking activists. 

JUUL said it would widely release mint and “Virginia Tobacco” JUULpods with less nicotine at 3 percent in October. 

That’s still enough nicotine to addict non-smokers. And there’s another problem. 

Leventhal said while lower nicotine levels could decrease the risk of teens getting addicted, JUUL is only releasing those new products in flavors teens don’t like. 

“Their sweet flavors like mango, fruit medley, and crème brulee are most popular among kids,” he said. 

JUUL is also entering the U.K. market, which limits nicotine levels to 1.7 percent. 

“Why don’t they launch that here?” Koval said. “Clearly, they know that the product is going to be a lot more addictive with higher levels of nicotine, and that’s been the tobacco industry model since year one.”

That’s not the kind of thing JUUL wants to hear. Underage use is the dark stain on an otherwise fairytale success story, and the company is determined to battle the perception that it’s profiting from teen addiction. 

“Amazon’s Choice.”

Image: Amazon

“JUUL is intended for current adult smokers only. We cannot be more emphatic on this point: no minor or non-nicotine user should ever try JUUL,” the company said in response to the Truth Initiative’s concerns. 

So far, the government has taken minor action. The FDA sent a letter to JUUL and other e-cigarette makers in May requesting internal documents “to better understand the youth appeal” of their products. JUUL said it has complied with the FDA’s request. 

Tech companies could also do more to stop the spread of JUUL. Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat should provide more data on who is creating and consuming JUUL content, Koval said. And Amazon could stop selling skins — stickers that wrap around JUUL vapes — on its site. At the very least, it could remove the ones featuring cartoons and video games, including Rick and Morty and Fortnite

“I don’t think young people are taking up JUUL because they want to get addicted to nicotine,” Koval said. “They think it looks cool, it’s new, it comes in different flavors, and everyone is doing it.” 

With the help of those edgy “truth” ads, Truth Initiative saw teenage cigarette use in the U.S. drop from 23 percent in 2000 to less than 6 percent in 2018. It would be a shame if a product designed to help smokers quit actually stalled, or even reversed, that progress. 

Read more: http://mashable.com/

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Juul Labs sues Chinese counterfeiters illegally selling fake Juuls

Counterfeit or the real thing? Depends where you buy it.
Image: Brianna Soukup/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

It’s a sue and be sued world out there!

In August, Juul Labs filed trademark claims against 30 entities in China selling counterfeit Juul products on Ebay. Now, the company has announced that a federal court granted the company a temporary restraining order over the accounts, and froze the counterfeiters’ PayPals. Take that, counterfeiters!

For Juul, this isn’t a simple matter of copyright infringement, though. The company is fighting to reduce teenage use of the product, especially in light of a FDA investigation into why teens love Juuls so much (and whether that’s Juul’s fault). And maintaining control over online sales that are age-verified is a crucial component of that campaign.

Legitimate Juul products are only available online through Juul’s website. However, as of this writing, there were over 2,000 listings for Juul or Juul-related products on Ebay. Any Juul device or pod you might see on Ebay or elsewhere that’s not Juul’s website directly comes from a counterfeiter, or an unauthorized seller. 

But selling Juul directly through the company’s own site isn’t just important to controlling the company’s cashflow, or even for verifying that the product is the real deal. Keeping Juul’s site as the sole online seller is crucial to ensuring that teens don’t purchase the e-cigs online. 

“Keeping JUUL out of the hands of young people is a priority for us,” Victoria Davis, a Juul Labs spokesperson told Mashable over email. “We have a strict and industry-leading age-verification process on our Web site so no one under the age of 21 can access JUUL. However, counterfeiters do not utilize the same type of age verification systems, which may enable minors to purchase products.” 

Juul’s site requires users to register with their social security numbers in order to verify that they’re over 21. So circumventing Juul’s commerce system means that the counterfeiters are actually undermining the company’s very intentional efforts to keep the cute lil’ vapes out of the hands of kids.

Juul is going after the counterfeiters through the legal system, as well as directly with sales platforms like Ebay and Amazon. But Davis described the hunt for counterfeiters as a “challenge” because the sellers can easily make new profiles. That isn’t deterring Juul, though, since more counterfeiters are popping up as the company grows.

“The prevalence of counterfeiters has increased dramatically over the last year consistent with JUUL’s rise in the marketplace,” Davis said. “The process of tracking and identifying the culprits of counterfeit products is time intensive. We have dedicated resources to this initiative to ensure these products stay off the market and out of hands of underage users.”

In other words, Juul’s attempts to go after counterfeiters is like USB-vape whack-a-mole. And the nicotine habits of kids are on the line. 

Read more: http://mashable.com/

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The anti-smoking giant that wants to stop JUUL

Don't try this at home, kids.
Image: LILI SAMS/MASHABLE

JUUL is the vape giant that went from zero to $16 billion in three years. Truth Initiative is the largest anti-smoking organization in the United States.

Both the company and the non-profit claim to have the same goal: helping smokers quit tobacco cigarettes. But Robin Koval, CEO and president of Truth Initiative, hasn’t been shy about slamming JUUL. 

“The fact that JUUL is acting like, ‘What, young people are using JUUL? We never intended that to happen,’ is a little disingenuous,” she said. 

Oh yes, that. Teenagers love JUUL. Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat are filled with #juul references. These days, downtime at college is basically all about posting Stories of yourself JUULing to Drake. 

The devices are sleek, small, and everywhere. There’s no need to refill them with liquid — just pop in a new JUULpod. They even recharge via USB.

Unlike some vapes, they deliver a lot of nicotine. The company says each JUULpod contains 5 percent nicotine, about as much as a pack of cigarettes. Early on, the company reached plenty of young people on social media with ads of models living their best #vapelife. 

The blowback from parents and the press has been severe. In response, JUUL removed models from its feeds, which now only feature ex-smokers sharing their stories. It committed $30 million to fighting underage use of its products. The company also has a secret shopping program to carry out “random compliance checks” to make sure retail stores aren’t selling to minors. 

Koval wants JUUL to do more. She dismissed the $30 million that JUUL is spending as a “rounding error” for a company that just raised $1.2 billion from investors. 

“Frankly, if they really wanted to do something to impact youth sales, they could voluntarily comply with all of the rules that got postponed until 2022,” she said. 

During the Obama administration, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined that e-cigarette makers would have to submit their products for review by this summer. Trump administration officials delayed that deadline until 2022, saying that it didn’t want to stifle innovation. 

JUUL said that it supports “effective legislation and regulation,” but hasn’t stated support for the FDA rules. And the company has spent $240,000 on lobbyists in hopes of influencing e-cig regulations, according to Wired

And not everyone is convinced that $30 million will keep young people from trying JUUL.

“Tobacco companies have a long history of creating and promoting their own programs which they say are for ‘youth smoking prevention,'” said Pamela Ling, professor at the University of California, San Francisco. Those programs were simply “PR tools to avoid regulation,” she said. And JUUL could be following the same strategy. 

“As far as I know, there is no published evidence that the JUUL youth program actually decreases youth use of JUUL.”

Then there’s the issue of teen-friendly flavors, most notably mango and “fruit medley.” Koval wants them off the market. JUUL insists fruity flavors help smokers who “don’t want to be reminded of the tobacco-taste of a cigarette.” 

There’s evidence that vaping could lead teenagers to try traditional cigs — the ultimate nightmare for anti-smoking activists 

Helping smokers quit is a noble goal, of course. A study published earlier this year by University of Michigan researchers concluded that the “benefits outweigh the risks” when it comes to vaping — essentially, they save more lives by helping smokers quit than cost lives by hooking new smokers with nicotine. 

Tobacco kills more than 7 million people each year, according to the World Health Organization. Several experts — including Koval — say it’s better for people to vape than smoke tobacco cigarettes. But do they actually help people quit? Some studies say they’re effective. On the other hand, a Georgia State University study from July found no evidence that vape use helped adult smokers quit at higher rates than smokers who didn’t vape. 

For teens, the stakes are even higher. Nicotine addiction could “harm the developing adolescent brain” and cause attention and mood disorders, said Adam Leventhal, director of the University of Southern California’s Health, Emotion, & Addiction Laboratory. And earlier this year, a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found evidence that vaping could lead teenagers to try traditional tobacco cigarettes — the ultimate nightmare for anti-smoking activists. 

JUUL said it would widely release mint and “Virginia Tobacco” JUULpods with less nicotine at 3 percent in October. 

That’s still enough nicotine to addict non-smokers. And there’s another problem. 

Leventhal said while lower nicotine levels could decrease the risk of teens getting addicted, JUUL is only releasing those new products in flavors teens don’t like. 

“Their sweet flavors like mango, fruit medley, and crème brulee are most popular among kids,” he said. 

JUUL is also entering the U.K. market, which limits nicotine levels to 1.7 percent. 

“Why don’t they launch that here?” Koval said. “Clearly, they know that the product is going to be a lot more addictive with higher levels of nicotine, and that’s been the tobacco industry model since year one.”

That’s not the kind of thing JUUL wants to hear. Underage use is the dark stain on an otherwise fairytale success story, and the company is determined to battle the perception that it’s profiting from teen addiction. 

“Amazon’s Choice.”

Image: Amazon

“JUUL is intended for current adult smokers only. We cannot be more emphatic on this point: no minor or non-nicotine user should ever try JUUL,” the company said in response to the Truth Initiative’s concerns. 

So far, the government has taken minor action. The FDA sent a letter to JUUL and other e-cigarette makers in May requesting internal documents “to better understand the youth appeal” of their products. JUUL said it has complied with the FDA’s request. 

Tech companies could also do more to stop the spread of JUUL. Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat should provide more data on who is creating and consuming JUUL content, Koval said. And Amazon could stop selling skins — stickers that wrap around JUUL vapes — on its site. At the very least, it could remove the ones featuring cartoons and video games, including Rick and Morty and Fortnite

“I don’t think young people are taking up JUUL because they want to get addicted to nicotine,” Koval said. “They think it looks cool, it’s new, it comes in different flavors, and everyone is doing it.” 

With the help of those edgy “truth” ads, Truth Initiative saw teenage cigarette use in the U.S. drop from 23 percent in 2000 to less than 6 percent in 2018. It would be a shame if a product designed to help smokers quit actually stalled, or even reversed, that progress. 

Read more: http://mashable.com/

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Juuls might be dangerous to use. But theyre definitely dangerous to throw away.

With no clear take-back program from Juul, these vaporizers are difficult to dispose of properly.
Image: lili sams/mashable

Your Juul may not kill you, but it’s definitely not doing the planet any favors.

Like many other delightfully small gadgets, the world’s hottest vape is miserable to dispose of without wasting parts or putting people in harm’s way. Juul devices pack a lot into a small package, including a lithium-ion battery, which could explode if mishandled. 

Though Juul Labs, the company behind the vaporizer, is on track to dominate a multi-billion dollar e-cig market this year, it’s made no clear effort to educate its customers about how to dispose of the Juul safely, nor has it established a trade-in program that would allow people to responsibly send their gadgets back when they’re no longer desired. 

Juul Labs has positioned itself as responsible company, with a product that could make the world a better place. Yes, it sells delicious nicotine pods that teenagers crave, but it also has a mission statement: “We envision a world where fewer people use cigarettes, and where people who smoke cigarettes have the tools to reduce or eliminate their consumption entirely, should they so desire.” Without clear guidance on how to dispose of its devices, Juul Labs may only make the world worse, as wasteful electronic gadgets pile up and resources to create new ones become scarcer.

Juul’s devices are tiny and tricky to pull apart, like so many other gadgets. (Apple’s teensy AirPods have been called “impossible” to recycle.) And so the onus is on Juul Labs to reclaim them, especially as the devices become more popular. It’s made no effort to do so.

A lot of people are buying these. Even last fall, when Juul’s market share hovered around 32 percent, the company told CNBC it produced 20 million products every month. (That includes the device’s “pods,” which contain the nicotine-filled liquid the unit vaporizes for your inhaling pleasure.) Now, Juul reportedly accounts for 54 percent of the e-cig market.

The volume of production is reason for concern, according to Jim Puckett, executive director of the Basel Action Network, a nonprofit concerned with protecting people and the environment from e-waste. Small problems add up. Eventually, people will need to dispose of their Juuls, and they currently have few good ways to do so responsibly. No battery lasts forever, and the company doesn’t officially sell lithium-ion replacements or repair parts. 

“Lithium-ion batteries will lose their capacity at some point,” Puckett said. “And when it dies, people will likely throw it in the trash, absent an aggressive program to prevent that.” 

Juul has no such program. The company’s website doesn’t include any clear information about recycling, though it notes that its pods should not be refilled or reused. 

Reached by Mashable, Victoria Davis, a spokesperson for the company, said: 

We design our device to be reliable and strive to exceed our 1-year Limited Warranty period — this is not a disposable item like many other e-cigarettes. For disposal purposes, JUUL should be treated as any other consumer electronic device, such as a cell phone. We suggest following your city’s local recommendations for disposing of a lithium-polymer rechargeable battery.

Following “local recommendations” may be easier said than done. Many states have no specific battery recycling requirements. The same goes for cities.

Worse, not every recycling program behaves responsibly. As the Basel Action Network found in a 2016 investigation, U.S. recyclers will sometimes export e-waste to other countries.

It’s a simple cost-benefit game: Recycling is a business, but it’s not always one that pays off. Some devices contain few valuable parts. Others are labor-intensive to break apart. Slim smartphones, for example, are often shredded into pieces, from which some valuable metals are gathered and smelted. The process is as destructive and wasteful as it sounds.

You can see the Juul’s component parts on the company’s “Juul Labs” website. (Or could, anyway: Perhaps coincidentally, juullabs.com began to redirect to juul.com after Mashable reached out with questions about the page on Tuesday evening.) 

A cached version of juullabs.com, depicting the Juul’s component parts.

There’s quite a lot packed into a small and sleek package, which is probably why the company and its vapes have been compared to Apple and the iPhone. But there isn’t a lot of value in the Juul’s components — the device retails for $34.99 — so recycling companies won’t get a lot out of breaking them apart and reclaiming the parts.

“Recyclers are not going to be too keen to take them because a) they are filthy, and b) they are not going to be worth much in commodity value,” Puckett explained.

Kyle Wiens, the head of iFixit, echoed these concerns when approached about the Juul’s lifespan.

“They need to be manually disassembled and separated,” Wiens said. “I don’t see a major problem with the design from that perspective, except that they’re so small and lightweight that the economics wouldn’t work out great.” 

In other words, a small device with few valuable parts leaves little upside for recycling programs. No one is going to break a Juul apart to recover its parts.

And again: If these gadgets aren’t handled properly, their batteries could combust. Take a look at this video published by the nonprofit Ecomaine, reportedly showing the result of a lithium-ion battery fire at a recycling facility in Maine:

But this isn’t all about explosions, either. Electronic devices like the Juul — or iPhone, for that matter — rely to some extent on elements that are not in limitless supply on this planet. For example, lithium-ion batteries require cobalt, which is sourced from very few places, often at great human cost.  

In this regard, Juul Labs may have less of a cross to bear than, say, Apple or Samsung. The battery in a Juul vaporizer is certainly smaller than the one in your smartphone, and it doesn’t have a tantalum-packed processor nor speakers or a hard drive. You can also imagine that there are fewer potential vape-huffers in the world than there are potential smartphone users. (Though, for what it’s worth, 1.1 billion people still smoke worldwide — a pretty hefty demographic!)

But that’s all beside the point. Tech companies like Juul Labs, which nail some key innovation and then go on to rule industries where once there was stiff competition, should bear a proportionate responsibility to limit the harm they inflict on the planet. This is why Apple crows about its renewable energy innovations and iPhone-dismantling robots, though it still has quite a ways to go before it can be taken seriously as a “green” company.

Juuls are a big business. While the original device still sells like hotcakes, you can imagine the company — following perhaps every successful consumer tech firm to ever exist — is planning ways to eke more cash out of is existing customers. Juul Pods, as a literally addictive substance, are no doubt great for revenue. The inevitable Juul 2 or Juul XL will be, too.

And so, just as it’s committed $30 million to research and education about underage use, the company could set a meaningful agenda about e-waste. It’s a problem that will persist for Juul Labs and its contemporaries. But it could be mitigated by consumer education and a trade-in program similar to Apple’s “GiveBack” initiative, which gives people credit in exchange for their old devices.

It’s not perfect, but it’s a start.

Read more: http://mashable.com/

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