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JUUL’s Expansion Plans in India Go Up in SmokeSo how did it get to this?And then it happened.

The Indian government’s e-cigarette ban means that the company behind the battery-powered vaping devices have to put out their fiery expansion plans in one of the world’s biggest markets

The Story

On September 18th, the government decided to ban the sale of all vaping products, including e-cigarettes prompting criticism from many in the vaping industry for the arbitrary clampdown. However yesterday we started hearing that one of the key factors behind the government’s decision was the impending launch of the infamous Juul in India.

For the uninitiated, Juul is an e-cigarette, one that uses a battery-powered device that converts liquid nicotine (often available as flavoured pods) into a mist, or vapor, that the user inhales. And while there are many other e-cigarette manufacturers in the world, Juul is in a league of its own. As one reddit user pointed out

“They’re cheap, you can buy them and the pods virtually anywhere, tons of flavors to choose from (including 3rd party), they’re small, the battery is decent, they’re easy to hide and carry, they’re simple, and they just work and do what they should.”

And that’s a bit of a problem. They do their job a bit too well. So much so that many non-smokers now seem to be “juuling” as well. And yes, that’s an actual verb, predominantly used by kids and young teenagers, the kind of people that shouldn’t be smoking anything.

So how did it get to this?

Well, Juul was originally supposed to be marketed as an alternative to smoking - a sort of a new era approach towards harm reduction. But that’s in theory. In reality, the product was being marketed very differently.

As one researcher noted - ” Between 2015 and 2016 [early years after launch] Juul ads were filled with attractive young models socializing and flirtatiously sharing the flash-drive shaped device, displaying behaviour like dancing to club-like music and clothing styles more characteristic of teens than mature adults. Often, early marketing contained little to no reference to Juul being an option for switching from cigarettes.”

Even without the marketing dilemma, there is another more fundamental problem. While there are numerous studies pointing to the benefits of switching from smoking to e-cigarettes, nobody seems to be quite sure how you quit e-cigarettes once you make the switch. And considering so many new people have been taking to vaping, how do you improve lives (as Juul claims it does) when there’s no clear path to drop the damn thing.

And then it happened.

A month back, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention said that more than 1,000 cases of lung injury associated with vaping have been reported in the U.S. Soon enough, medical officials urged consumers to stay away from e-cigarettes until more details emerged. Followed by bans, lawsuits and condemnation from the Trump administration.

Juul has been fighting a war and it looks like it’s only the beginning.

However, unlike in the past, Juul is no longer a small startup. Instead, it’s now part-owned by a big-tobacco giant, Altria (the people that make Marlboro). And that comes with some major implications. On the one hand, Altria paid about $12.8 Billion for buying about 35% of the company last year only to be dragged into this mess now. On the other hand, Juul is now big tobacco and if anybody knows anything about these guys, it’s that they don’t quit.

So what’s the future for e-cigarettes? Until we can fully understand the long term health implications of this new age product, I think it’s pretty bleak. But hey, that’s just me.

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