CDC Researchers Blame JUUL for Rise in Teen Vaping


“JUUL’s high nicotine concentration, discreet shape, and flavors could be particularly appealing to, and problematic for, youths.”

Science says vaping is cool. Okay, maybe science doesn’t directly say that, but evidence shows that more and more teens are using e-cigarettes, and teens are cool, so vaping must be cool, right? Unfortunately, public health officials at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention disagree. And they’re placing much of the blame for the rise in teen vaping on one company: the Silicon Valley e-cigarette startup JUUL Laboratories.

In a research letter published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers at the CDC and nonprofit RTI International’s Centers for Health Policy Science and Tobacco Research analyzed data from retailers across the country and outlined how JUUL’s meteoric rise in popularity may be accredited — at least in part — to its appeal among teenagers. While all e-cigarette brands increased in popularity between 2013 and 2017 because of marketing suggesting that they help people quit smoking, JUUL has become the most in-demand manufacturer of all.

“JUUL’s high nicotine concentration, discreet shape, and flavors could be particularly appealing to, and problematic for, youths,” wrote the study’s authors, led by Brian King, Ph.D., M.P.H., deputy director for research translation in the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health.

Many teens may initially try e-cigarettes, like those manufactured by JUUL, because they’re seen as safer alternatives to traditional tobacco cigarettes. And JUUL’s sleek, compact design makes the device look like a USB drive, meaning it can easily be slipped into a pocket or concealed in the palm of the hand. Several reports suggest teens easily sneak it into classrooms. Its modular “pod” design also makes it easy for users to refill the nicotine-containing liquid by simply switching out a coin-sized cartridge. Compared to disposable devices with integrated batteries, JUUL’s rechargeable device offers several attractive qualities to many consumers, and the numbers bear this out.

According to the study’s authors, JUUL Laboratories sales increased by a whopping 641 percent from 2016 to 2017. This growth translated to a 515 percent increase in JUUL Laboratories’ share of the e-cigarette market, jumping from just 2 percent of the vape market when the company started to 13 percent in early 2017. The company’s hold on the vape market exploded after that, and as of December 2017, the company controlled 29 percent of e-cigarette sales. This means that almost one out of every three e-cigarettes purchased in the US is a JUUL.

Notably, the study only used purchasing data from retailers, so it was not possible for researchers to determine how old buyers were. The study’s authors did note, though, that previous research has suggested many of these purchases may have been made by consumers under the legal smoking age.

“These sales could reflect products purchased by adults to attempt smoking cessation or products obtained directly or indirectly by youths; a recent analysis found retail stores were the primary location where youths reported obtaining the JUUL device and refill pods,” they wrote.

JUUL podmod starter kit
A JUUL starter pack includes the device, a USB charger, and four pods of different flavored nicotine-containing e-liquid, all for less than $50.

In response to Inverse’s request for comment on the new paper, JUUL spokesperson Victoria Davis did not address the assertion that JUUL products are popular among young people. Davis did emphasize targeting “adult smokers” three times, though:

JUUL Labs is focused on its mission to improve the lives of the world’s one billion adult smokers. Like many Silicon Valley technology startups, our growth is the result of a superior product disrupting an archaic industry — in this case, one whose products are the number one cause of preventable death. When adult smokers find a satisfying alternative to cigarettes, they tell other adult smokers. JUUL Labs has helped more than 1 million Americans switch from cigarettes, and we’re excited about our continued expansion into markets outside of the United States such as the United Kingdom, Canada, and Israel.

This public relations tactic is becoming familiar territory for JUUL, whose official Instagram page is dominated by images of full-on adult adults, including testimonials from people like 68-year-old Kathy, a gray-haired woman named Barbara, and the rapper/actress Awkwafina, who, at 29 years old is young but no teen. The explicit focus on adults may be coming a little too late for the company, though, as it’s already in federal regulators’ crosshairs.

On September 13, Inverse reported that US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., announced that vaping had become an “epidemic.” Gottlieb noted that the FDA had issued 56 warning letters to retailers who illegally sold the devices to kids under 18 years old, and JUUL was specifically mentioned in his announcement. This week, the FDA also announced it had raided JUUL’s headquarters on Friday, seizing thousands of pages of documents. The operation was part of an investigation into whether JUUL has been marketing its products to children.

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Elon Musk Says SpaceX’s BFR Design Is Inspired by Tintin Comics


BFR spacex

Elon Musk unveiled a new design for SpaceX’s BFR rocket on Thursday, and he’s taking inspiration from a famous series of Belgian comics. The CEO confirmed on Twitter that the new design “intentionally” bears resemblance to the vehicles depicted in The Adventures of Tintin, the whimsical series that depicts Tintin and his friends embarking on far-flung trips to find new stories.

On Thursday, SpaceX announced the BFR rocket will also ferry a private passenger around the moon.

The BFR was first announced at the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia, in September 2017. SpaceX plans to send two BFRs to Mars in 2022, followed by four more in 2024. Two of the latter four will fly the first humans to Mars, with the other four providing supplies so they can refuel and return home.

The redesign shared with the moon announcement bears similarities to rockets as featured in Hergé’s comic series. The 1950 comic Destination Moon shows a red-and-yellow checkered rocket with three giant fins on the base, elevating the rocket above the ground, which Tintin and his friends use to visit the moon and explore a secret government project. The story continued in 1953 comic Explorers on the Moon.

The comics, published nearly two decades before NASA’s 1969 lunar visit, come surprisingly close to predicting Neil Armstrong’s famous words. Tintin exits the craft in the comic and, making his first steps on the dusty surface, proclaims: “This is it! I’ve walked a few steps! For the first time in the history of mankind there is an explorer on the moon!”

The new BFR design was depicted in a Twitter post below:

The new ship looks notably different from the IAC renderings:

The BFR on Mars
The BFR as depicted at IAC 2017.

Eagle-eyed followers immediately clocked some similarities between the giant-finned new craft and rockets from the Tintin comics:

Musk confirmed the similarity over Twitter:

It’s not the first time Musk has made reference to Tintin. In February, he dubbed two of SpaceX’s satellites Tintin A and B. The two crafts are part of a plan to provide internet service in space, using a staggering 4,425 satellites starting next year. The goal is to bring internet access to remote places that lack the infrastructure to support connectivity.

Musk’s new Tintin ship will play a pivotal role in a historic mission. SpaceX plans to reveal more details of the mission on Monday:

SpaceX has signed the world’s first private passenger to fly around the Moon aboard our BFR launch vehicle – an important step toward enabling access for everyday people who dream of traveling to space. Only 24 humans have been to the Moon in history. No one has visited since the last Apollo mission in 1972. Find out who’s flying and why on Monday, September 17 at 6pm PT.

Ring and bracelet system designed to help the hearing-impaired.


Take rings, add a bracelet, and you have a helping mechanism for the hearing-impaired in a novel design. For people who have hearing handicaps and do not know sign language, the ring and bracelet system can help them out, both in communicating what they need to say and in getting messages they can read. First, a Sign Language Ring behaves as a translating device that picks up motion and gestures and translates them into words, delivered through voice by the bracelet. The bracelet can translate spoken words into its readable display panel for the wearer to read. After use, the rings can be set into the bracelet for storage.

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The design was inspired by Buddhist prayer beads. The name of the entire system is the Sign Language Ring, which is actually a set of rings and a bracelet. In all, six gesture-detecting finger rings can be snapped and stored on the bracelet. The user can program certain gestures to a specific word if desired. The speaker box and readable display are wrapped around the bracelet. After use, the rings can be set into the for storage.

Sign Language Ring is a 2013 winner of the red dot award for design concept. The red dot award for design concept is an annual design competition for design concept and prototypes. Winning concepts are exhibited at the red dot museum in Singapore for at least one year.

This attempt comes at a time when wearable technologies market watchers are recognizing a subset that carries ample opportunities for growth, and that is wearables as disability technologies for the deaf, blind, paralyzed, and elderly. In turn, there is interest in “hear ware,” which would include embedding jewelry with technologies that can help those who have hearing difficulties.

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In a GigaOm Pro article titled “The wearable computing market: a global analysis by Jody Ranck, the author made note of the 2006 event in London, where the Victoria and Albert Museum hosted an exhibition on hear ware. These were technologies developed in response to a call from the UK Design Council to rethink the hearing aid. The result, said the author, was a fascinating array of wearable technologies outfitted with sensors and hearing devices.

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