How Juul took over
the vaping world
How Juul took over the vaping world
Vaping has been one of the biggest health stories of 2019. The meteoric rise in popularity of e-cigarettes, combined with growing concern about their addictive nature, has preoccupied parents and regulators alike.
The craze took off largely because of one company, Juul, which reimagined the cigarette and cornered the vaping industry. In the process, it put a new generation at risk of nicotine addiction. This is a look at how we got here.
Drawing on their thesis project, which imagined "disrupting the worldwide cigarette industry," Stanford University design graduates Adam Bowen, left, and James Monsees found the company Ploom.
Ploom unveils the Model One e-cigarette. It uses proprietary tobacco pods made of aluminum that are heated to deliver hits of nicotine in a handheld device that's about the size of a pen.
Ploom transforms into Pax Labs, after selling the rights to its Ploom products to Japan Tobacco International, which had been an investor in the company.
Juul co-founder Adam Bowen and chemist Chenyue Xing patent the nicotine delivery system used in the current Juul e-cigarette device. Pax also commissions a study to look at the nicotine delivery experience of the Juul compared with traditional cigarettes and other e-cigarettes on the market.
Pax Labs introduces the Juul. The device uses a new technology focused on "nicotine salts," similar to those found in tobacco leaves, which deliver close to 60 mg of nicotine. That's almost three times the concentration of the drug than in previous e-cigarettes on the market.
Pax Labs forms a separate company focused on cannabis vaporizers, and Juul Labs breaks off into its own company for nicotine delivery devices.
Kevin Burns joins Juul Labs as chief executive, growing the company from a few hundred employees to several thousand in 20 countries around the world.
Billionaire Nicholas Pritzker joins Juul's board. His family had previously controlled Conwood, one of the largest chewing tobacco companies in the U.S.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announces it has conducted an investigation of underage sales of Juul products, and requests documents from Juul about the marketing of its products. Juul announces a strategy to take "decisive action" on underage use of e-cigarettes.
Juul launches an awareness campaign for parents about vaping and nicotine as part of a three-year, $30-million investment to combat youth vaping.
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb calls teenage vaping an "epidemic," giving Juul and other e-cigarette makers 60 days to submit plans detailing ways to combat youth use.
Juul inks a deal with tobacco giant Altria, which invests $12.8 billion US and takes a 35 per cent stake in the company. Juul is then valued at $38 billion after becoming the fastest company in history to reach a $10-billion valuation even faster than Facebook.
Canadian researcher David Hammond publishes a study in the British Medical Journal that finds the number of Canadian teens who said they had vaped in the last month had grown 74 per cent – from 8.4 per cent in 2017 to 14.6 per cent in 2018.
Juul opens its first retail store in Canada. The Toronto outlet marks the company's first brick-and-mortar location in North America.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announces it is investigating more than 90 potential cases of severe lung illnesses associated with vaping.
Health Canada warns of the potential risk of pulmonary illness associated with vaping products and asks those who use the device to monitor themselves for symptoms.
The U.S. FDA sends a warning letter to Juul Labs CEO Kevin Burns over the company's unproven claims that its devices are less harmful than traditional cigarettes.
A lawsuit is launched in B.C. Supreme Court against Juul Labs Canada and Juul Labs Inc. alleging they targeted targets minors with misleading advertising by claiming their products are safer and healthier than smoking.
Donald Trump's administration announces plans to ban the sale of flavoured e-cigarettes in the U.S. Juul suspends all advertising in the U.S. and says it will not lobby the government. It continues to market and sell its products in Canada without change.
Juul falls to a $24 billion US valuation from a peak of $38 billion.
Thousands protest outside Juul's headquarters in Washington, D.C., and across the U.S. against vaping-related deaths, flavoured e-cigarettes and a lack of regulation.
The Trump administration backtracks on a call for a ban on most flavoured e-cigarettes, saying it would lead to more counterfeit vaping products.
The Centers for Disease Control announces it has found a "strong culprit" into the cause of mysterious outbreak of vaping illnesses across the U.S. and Canada, concluding that vitamin E acetate causes lung damage.
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix announces sweeping new vaping regulations, including higher taxes, restrictions on sales and advertising, limits on nicotine content and constraints on packaging.
As of November 2019, there are 2,172 confirmed and probable lung injury cases and 42 deaths associated with the vaping illness across the U.S.
So what’s next for Juul? The answer isn’t entirely clear, but the company shows no signs of slowing down.
Additional regulatory measures will likely be put in place on the marketing and sale of the devices in Canada, but a new player already has the federal government’s stamp of approval: cannabis vaping.
On Dec. 17, after vaporizable cannabis oils are legal in Canada, PAX Labs is launching the PAX Era, a device that looks almost identical to Juul and utilizes similar technology with disposable cannabis cartridges.
Aphria is one of five cannabis companies that have partnered with Pax for the Canadian release of the device. Aphria said they expect cannabis vaping to account for 30 per cent of the entire Canadian "adult-use" market by 2021.
Text: Adam Miller and James Dunne| Design and development: Richard Grasley and Dwight Friesen, CBC News Labs