A report released Tuesday confirms underage vaping is still on the rise despite efforts this year to crack down on the epidemic. A government study published in the journal JAMA found an estimated 28 percent of high schoolers and 11 percent of middle schoolers said they had used e-cigarettes within the past month, totaling about 5.3 million underage users compared to just 3.6 million last year. The data was based on a national survey of 20,000 young people conducted earlier this year. About 60 percent of high schoolers said Juul is their preferred brand.
Of those who reported using flavors, about 60 percent said they favored mint or menthol. In October, Juul Labs voluntarily pulled its mango, crème, fruit, and cucumber flavor vaping pods from stores and announced on Thursday it is stopping sales of its mint-flavor e-cigarettes, its most popular flavor. The Trump administration in September proposed a nationwide ban on flavor pods, including mint and menthol. An announcement is expected soon from the Food and Drug Administration, and Juul has pledged not to lobby against any federal flavor ban.
Tobacco giant Altria last week slashed the value of its investment in Juul Labs by a third, taking a $4.5 billion write-down on its share. The Virginia-based company bought roughly a third of Juul for $13 billion last December. The announcement came days after a Juul Labs executive who was fired earlier this year filed a lawsuit alleging the company knowingly shipped contaminated mint nicotine pods to customers. In the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Northern California, former finance executive Siddharth Breja described a “reckless” and “win-at-all-costs” company culture, pushed by former CEO Kevin Burns. A Juul representative said the claims are “baseless” and that Breja was fired because he failed to demonstrate the qualities required for his job.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention released updated national statistics on vaping-related lung injuries at the end of October, bringing the total number of cases to 1,888, with 37 deaths confirmed. The CDC said products containing THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana that gives the user a high, are linked to most of the cases and play a major role in the outbreak, but that it has not yet identified a cause for the lung injuries. —K.C.