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Tue Nov 5, 2019, 08:27 PM

Juul disregarded early evidence it was hooking teens

Source: Reuters

Juul disregarded early evidence it was hooking teens

Juul executives knew young people were flocking to its breakthrough e-cigarette shortly after it went on sale in 2015, a former manager tells Reuters. Its nicotine blend was so potent, engineers devised a kill switch to limit the dosage – but the idea was shelved.

By CHRIS KIRKHAM Filed Nov. 5, 2019, 11 a.m. GMT

The San Francisco startup that invented the groundbreaking Juul e-cigarette had a central goal during its development: captivating users with the first hit.

The company had concluded that consumers had largely rejected earlier e-cigarettes, former employees told Reuters, because the devices either failed to deliver enough nicotine or delivered it with a harsh taste. Developers of the Juul tackled both problems with a strategy they found scouring old tobacco-company research and patents: adding organic acids to nicotine, which allowed for a unique combination of smooth taste and a potent dose.

Employees tested new liquid-nicotine formulations on themselves or on strangers taking smoke breaks on the street. Sometimes, the mix packed too much punch – enough nicotine to make some testers’ hands shake or send them to the bathroom to vomit, a former company manager told Reuters.

In the end, it worked. The formula delivered nicotine to the bloodstream so efficiently, in fact, that the company’s engineers explored features to stop users from ingesting too much of the drug, too quickly. Juul’s founders applied for a patent in 2014 that described methods for alerting the user or disabling the device when the dose of a drug such as nicotine exceeds a certain threshold.

One idea was to shut down the device for a half-hour or more after a certain number of puffs, said Chenyue Xing, a former Juul scientist who helped patent its liquid-nicotine formula. The concern stemmed in part from the fact that a Juul – unlike a cigarette – never burns out, Xing said in an interview.

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Read more: https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/juul-ecigarette/

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