JUUL Labs will launch a smart version of the popular e-cigarette early next year, according to company co-founder James Monsees. The new JUUL device will allow users to customize the vaping experience, and may prevent the product from being used by minors.
The connected JUUL will allow vapers to step down their usage if they choose to, although Monsees didn’t make clear if that meant reducing nicotine consumption while taking the same number of puffs, or reducing total amount vaped.
“A consumer will pick up the JUUL, they’ll be asked to connect it, and in turn for connecting it they’ll get visibility and control of their usage,” Monsees told TechCrunch editor Jordan Crook. “They can ask to go this way or that way, and anything a consumer wants. It’s their device, it’s their experience.” The device will even help users quit juuling altogether if that’s their goal.
The smart JUUL won’t be sold initially in the U.S., because any product introduced after Aug. 8, 2016 requires FDA approval of a premarket tobacco application (PMTA). Monsees refers to the PMTA requirement as a “moratorium on new product introductions.” JUUL is also sold in a reduced-nicotine version in the U.K. JUUL Labs has also begun offering the British version in Israel, and the standard JUUL is launching this month in Canada.
Monsees is JUUL Labs’ Chief Product Officer. He was interviewed at TechCrunch Disrupt, an annual tech conference in San Francisco. He co-founded JUUL Labs (and Pax Labs before that) with Adam Bowen. The JUUL device has been on the market since 2015, and has rapidly gained a majority of the convenience store/gas station e-cigarette market.
The interviewer, who had quit smoking with JUUL, expressed concern that even though JUUL represented a reduction in risk from smoking, it still kept users dependent on nicotine.
“We cannot be holding people hostage, so to speak,” Monsees responded. “Nor should anyone feel that way, the way they may have felt with cigarettes in the past. So using new technologies, what we plan to do — and very soon actually — is offer customers like you the ability to say, ‘This is where I want my experience with JUUL to go. I want to drop my usage by 20 percent in the next two weeks.’
“There will be a machine-learning algorithm that’s going to smooth that out for you so that you don’t really even have to think about it. You request it and we make it as easy as possible.”
The connected JUUL will also address concerns over youth use of the product, according to Monsees. JUUL has been accused by tobacco control activists of marketing the product to teenage users. The FDA is investigating JUUL Labs, and some state officials have begun their own investigations.
“And what we’ll also ask is for them to opt into this youth prevention feature set. And at launch what that’ll mean is if you distance yourself from your phone — basically we all carry our phones around — basically it’s two-factor authentication for JUUL use.”
Despite the all-out assault on the company by tobacco control organizations and regulators, Monsees seems remarkably relaxed about JUUL’s future. “It’s incumbent on us to ultimately prove our good intentions,” he told the TechCrunch interviewer.
He’s also fairly uninformed about the industry he’s a big part of, telling the TechCrunch editor that, “There had been other e-cigarette companies before us, and some still exist. But most have been consolidated by major tobacco companies.” Unless he is speaking strictly about the cigalike portion of the market, he’s wrong. No one should know better than the co-founder of JUUL Labs that tobacco companies control less than 20 percent of the American vape market.