To the Editor:
A recent News in Brief raised concerns about the increase in youth vaping in our schools (“Youth Smoking Decline Stalls, And Vaping May Be to Blame,” February 26, 2019). But perhaps the term vaping has become too broad, as the market for youth e-cigarette use has been taken over by one brand: Juul.
You know you have achieved dominance in an industry when your brand is turned into a verb, and for kids today the most popular vaping practice is “Juuling.” If you want to know what Juul is about, as the old saying goes, follow the money. Three years ago, Juul did not exist, but in mid-December of 2018 the maker of Marlboro cigarettes bought a 35 percent stake in Juul for $12.8 billion. That values Juul at about $38 billion. Juul’s employees split a $2 billion dividend and became overnight millionaires.
Why the high price tag? Juul can successfully deliver to the desirable and lucrative youth market. In the course of three years, through clever product design, social media marketing, and positioning itself at the center of millennial culture, Juul managed to capture the youth demographic that big tobacco had lost over the past couple decades. As a result, 30 years of preventive programs and practices that had successfully reduced youth smoking disappeared in a figurative blink of an eye. Now educators have a new problem on their hands.
I believe that any approaches to combat this growing problem should include having those who have profited handsomely at the expense of our children doing their share. The $38 billion made by peddling addictive chemicals to children can buy a lot of bathroom vapor sensors, pay for hallway monitors, or fund preventive programming.
Ewing Public Schools
A version of this article appeared in the March 20, 2019 edition of Education Week as Juuling: The New Face Of an Old Problem