November 30, 2018

Stanton A. Glantz, PhD

Juul working to sidestep nicotine regulation in EU

The New York Times recently reported that Juul is working to develop a pod with lower nicotine content that will deliver the same “hit” by increasing the voltage in the device.  Running at a higher temperature increases nicotine delivery, as well as generation of the other toxic chemicals in e-cigarettes.

This effort to sidestep EU rules on nicotine in e-cigarettes is one more illustration of how Juul is acting like any other tobacco company in working to get around the rules.  The fact that they are modifying the product in a way that increases the risks is especially cynical given that they claim to be interested in harm reduction.

Alan Shihadeh and Tom Eissenberg at VCU identified this loophole in the EU regulations way back in 2015 in their paper “Electronic Cigarette Effectiveness and Abuse Liability: Predicting and Regulating Nicotine Flux” when they wrote:

While attending to variables in combination using nicotine flux offers regulatory advantages, the opposite case, failing to account for variables in combination, can lead to regulations that do not serve their intended purpose. For example, European Union Directive 2014/40/EU recently mandated a limit of 20mg/ml liquid nicotine concentration for the purpose of “allow(ing) for a delivery of nicotine that is comparable to the permitted dose of nicotine derived from a standard cigarette.” This regulation fails to account for the fact that nicotine concentration alone does not determine nicotine yield and, almost certainly, nicotine delivery to the user. That is, recent data and theoretical analyses suggest that, depending on user-selected battery voltage and heater resistance as well as user puff topography, a given ECIG loaded with 20mg/ml liquid can emit an aerosol that contains far more or far less nicotine than the smoke from a standard cigarette.

The EU (and the FDA and everywhere else) need to regulate nicotine delivery not nicotine content.


PS: Another thing that belies Juul’s claim that it is not just another tobacco company is its reported negotiations to sell a minority interest to Altria (Philip Morris).  CNBC has a good story on this business decision as well as a nice video on Juul that includes extensive interviews with Juul executives as well as health researchers (including me).  It’s worth watching.

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