JUUL Labs will soon sell JUUL pods with less nicotine, after criticism of the product’s high nicotine content from anti-vaping groups — but also from vapers themselves. The new products will have 40% less nicotine than the current JUUL pods: 3% nicotine by weight vs 5% for the original pods. The current pods are 59 mg/mL. The new ones will be between 30 and 40 mg/mL.
The move was announced in a press release Thursday from the San Francisco company. The new pods will be available in limited quantity in August, and widely available in October. JUUL Labs says the new product will “support the Company’s mission to provide existing adult smokers with a true alternative to cigarettes.”
“JUUL Labs wants to meet the needs and preferences of adult smokers who are on their journey to switching from cigarettes, and we hope the availability of different nicotine strengths will continue to allow adult smokers the ability to explore what is best for them,” said JUUL Labs CEO Kevin Burns.
Unfortunately, the selection of flavors may not support that mission. The pods will only be available in the Virginia Tobacco and Mint flavors — at least at first. That choice may be a concession to tobacco control critics that claim some of JUUL’s flavors are aimed at teenagers, and that their high nicotine content will “addict a new generation” — or to the FDA, which has begun investigating JUUL’s supposed “kid-appeal.”
However, for smokers who have successfully transitioned to vaping with JUUL, and have come to enjoy flavors other than tobacco and mint, the lack of flavor choices in the new pods might discourage them from reducing the nicotine they consume. Some vapers have criticized JUUL Labs for not offering customers a way to step down their nicotine intake. Now that the company has decided to do that, what is the logic behind not offering the new pods in the most popular JUUL flavors?
The announcement comes during a period of growth and turmoil for the largest American vape company. Even while facing hostile regulators and tobacco control opposition, JUUL Labs has announced that it has raised more than half of a planned $1.2 billion in investments. The funding infusion is expected to be used to expand JUUL sales into other countries (JUUL is currently sold only in the U.S. and Israel). The new round of funding will raise valuation of the private company to $15 billion.
The company grew rapidly last year, and JUUL now has 60 percent-plus market share in the Nielsen-tracked convenience store and gas station market. JUUL’s sales probably exceed $1 billion a year in those channels. With the company’s online and vape shop sales added to the total, JUUL may own more than 20 percent of the entire $5.5 billion U.S. vaping market.
But as JUUL has grown, the company has faced a coordinated campaign to generate fear, uncertainty and doubt, with hundreds of planted stories and an organized series of PR attacks by tobacco control groups like Truth Initiative and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. The company has responded by spending $30 million on an education campaign to prevent youth vaping.