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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Juul vaping device sweeping American schools on sale in UAE's grey market

The 'iPhone of the e-cigarette sector' is being sold illegally in the UAE and elsewhere

There more than 50,000 posts under the hashtag #Juul on Instagram alone, and countless tweets and YouTube videos. Juul Labs via AP
There more than 50,000 posts under the hashtag #Juul on Instagram alone, and countless tweets and YouTube videos. Juul Labs via AP

Intense nicotine delivery devices that give the user a strong hit that goes to their head are sweeping US high schools.

And despite a ban on all e-cigarette devices, they are on sale on websites in the UAE.

Vaping has been described as an epidemic in US high schools, with Juul taking up more than half the market share of e-cigarette sales.

Branded the iPhone of the vaping world, the small devices resemble USB flash drives, and are proving popular with under-18s in the US, although the "moral panic" over their use has been overplayed, according to speakers at a global summit on e-cigarettes in Washington.

“Juul is an interesting phenomenon, as unlike most of the pre-disposition in adults for using e-cigarettes, most of the kids using Juul are not interested in smoking conventional cigarettes,” said Professor Neil Benowitz, professor of medicine and bio-engineering and therapeutic sciences at the University of California, San Francisco.

“They are affluent, educated and tech savvy.

“When people are using devices to achieve a high, this can lead to addiction, and that is a worry with the high reported cases of usage in college kids across the US.

“There is a big unknown, and we are unsure of the long-term addiction risks of these devices.”

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Online retailers in the UAE registered an out-of-stock notice on most Juul products, although US-imported recharging units are still on sale.

Juul devices have been branded as the iPhone of the vaping world, and have soared in popularity since launching two years ago.

The nicotine content of pods is 0.7mL (or 59 mg/mL), the equivalent to one pack of cigarettes, or 200 puffs.

The devices are registering a noticeable impact on the US tobacco market.

According to market analysts Nielson, in the first quarter of 2018, US cigarette volumes fell by 6 per cent, about 1 per cent to 2 per cent worse than historic models would suggest.

There more than 50,000 posts under the hashtag #Juul on Instagram alone, and countless tweets and YouTube videos.

Juul devices were developed by two graduate students at Stanford, not a tobacco company.

Cigarette breaks were getting in the way of their studies so they developed a product that delivers a nicotine hit similar to combustible cigarettes.

They decided very quickly not to do much advertising, partly because they couldn’t keep up with demand and to keep their product away from children.

In a statement last week, Juul Labs said it would be part of a "comprehensive strategy to combat underage use".

The company has since allocated $30 million to come up with new ways to keep Juul use confined to adults.

It said it has been part of "significant success in its efforts to enable adult smokers to transition from cigarettes", but recognised that young people have gained access to their products.

“We do not need to get into a panic over Juul, and anyone who says it is an epidemic is misleading you,” said Iowa attorney general Tom Miller, who is supporting the initiative.

“Almost always, if a product is attractive to adults, it is also attractive to kids.

“This is an opportunity to change the behaviour of smokers that can’t be missed.”