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Juul wants approval for an age-verified vape. Here's how it would work

Juul Labs is hoping the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will approve a new product for the e-cigarette company.
Juul wants approval for an age-verified vape. Here's how it would work
Posted at 3:34 PM, Aug 15, 2023

Juul isn't surrendering to its troubled past. In fact, the e-cigarette company is hoping a future product can put it back on the map for adult smokers.

This "next-generation" product, which it's touting as a "technological solution for public-health problems," is a new type of vape with the capability of age verification.

Juul Labs submitted an application to get U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorization for the product, which is named JUUL2 System where it's already for sale in the U.K. and Canada.

This push for the new device in the U.S. comes as the company's future in the country remains in limbo, as the FDA hasn't said yet whether its other products can stay on the market.

So what's different about this new Juul system? Here's everything we know so far.

How does its age verification process work?

Perhaps its most notable draw and difference is the new Juul system's age verification technology. The legal age to buy e-cigarettes in the U.S. is 21. To verify users of the proposed product are 21 or older, the new vape pairs with a mobile and web-based app. Customers would be required to upload their government ID and a real-time selfie, or they can allow a third-party database to verify information they could input. 

The device can also be locked to keep out unverified or ineligible users, though the company told CNN the pods won't come automatically locked.

This age-specific addition is interesting for the company, which has been in hot water for its alleged promotion tactics toward younger customers. 

In April, a legal settlement required Juul to stop using people under 35 years old in its marketing campaigns and forced retailers to verify the age of Juul purchasers.

But with the new product announcement, Juul Labs' chief product officer said this is "only the beginning" of new technology that will "combat underage use."

Besides age verification, what else is new with this product?

So far, the new Juul will only be sold with one flavor: Virginia Tobacco.

And to ensure this really is the only flavor used, the proposed vape will have a unique Pod ID chip that will prevent counterfeit and compatible pods from being used.

Juul Labs also says the proposed product carries a "more consistent vapor experience that better competes with combustible cigarettes." The Bluetooth-enabled device also has a larger battery with a "smart light system" to communicate the battery and pod levels to the user.

It's not clear whether the name it's being sold under in the U.K. and Canada — JUUL2 System — will also be its name in the U.S., but it will likely carry a rebranded name as well.

SEE MORE: E-cigarette sales jumped 46.6% from 2020 to 2022, federal study shows

Why does Juul say it's making the product?

Juul is touting this next-generation product as a "technological solution for two public-health problems: improving adult-smoker switching from combustible cigarettes and restricting underage access to vapor products."

The amount of Americans smoking cigarettes has declined in recent years, while the use of e-cigarettes has continued to rise.

Juul has long said this is its "urgent" mission: to transition adult smokers completely away from cigarettes, though it's stated it never wants non-nicotine users, specifically youth, to try its products. 

In announcing the new product, the company said more than 32% of JUUL2 System users had completely switched from combustible cigarettes within six months of purchasing the product. It also noted the original JUUL system had switched more than 2 million adult smokers.

The company has to show scientific evidence of public health benefits — such as what it's noted above — to get this authorization it's seeking, and it has to get the authorization to be legally marketed. But the company has to be careful with this marketing, as it's being watched closely for how it's handling the spread of youth vaping.

Beyond this proposal, where does Juul stand in the U.S.?

This new vape product is Juul's first venture back into the public eye after nearly going bankrupt as a result of recent legal trouble and FDA decisions.

Last year, the FDA took all Juul e-cigarette products off the market after determining there was a lack of evidence the products were beneficial to public health. Juul is appealing this decision, which has allowed the company to sell again, but it still hasn't balanced the negative effects the FDA decision had on the company's finances.

Then in April, the company agreed to pay $462 million to settle lawsuits in six states and Washington, D.C., over cases that accused the company of directly marketing its vape products to underage people, fueling high tobacco use in the nation's youth.

It was one of thousands of legal cases since its 2016 rise in use, adding up to more than $1 billion in different settlements over the years.

And although it was once the top e-cigarette brand, its popularity has waned in recent years as other companies continue selling flavored products, which Juul stopped selling in 2018 after facing intense pressure from the FDA. 

The company has acknowledged its standing in the e-cigarette world has dropped in recent years, but it seems hopeful new products, like the one it's proposing, can change that.

"Policymakers, regulators and the general public must trust us to design, manufacture and market our products in ways that are consistent with the goal of offering alternatives to adult smokers, while keeping our products, and marketing of our products, away from those underage," its website states. "We're quite aware of an erosion in that trust over the past few years. We're working hard to rebuild it. We believe that we will meet this challenge."

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