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An Open Letter From a Teenager to the Parents Suing the JUUL Corporation

“Ah so you’re the little e-cigarette that started this great big legal war.” -Abraham Lincoln

Dear Parents of Juul-addicted teenagers,

I’m Patrick, and you can say I’m at the ground zero of the so-called “Juul epidemic.” I go to a high school on the East Coast and in the past year, I’ve seen a considerable increase in the sleek, futuristic-looking e-cigarettes called Juuls being consumed by people in my school. Well, they’re not technically called Juuls but the main company selling them, the JUUL Corporation, has their name associated with the devices much like Kleenex and Frisbee except neither of those have the fun ability to rapidly dispense nicotine into the bloodstream. Likely because of their overwhelming market share, the JUUL Corporation has borne the brunt of several lawsuits. These lawsuits are, in plain English, a load of horse shit. For several reasons. Look, I’m not here to bootlick a Silicon Valley Unicorn, but rather to lampoon the idiocy of you parents for suing them. The legal system is not a tool for you to use to receive compensation because your parenting abilities are not up to par. It is also not a vehicle for you to sue a corporation because your children have decided to misuse the product that they sell.

Pro Bono Legal Advice courtesy of Patrick Boese incoming.

Let’s do a little bit of legal jargon for a second. The first thing you need to sue someone, or in this case a corporation, is something called a cause of action. That’s essentially a reason to sue. Now, I’m sure most of my readers would realize that you need a valid and legitimate reason to sue someone but you parents clearly aren’t that great at common sense or common law. I’ll just cite Wikipedia since that’s honestly the BARE minimum amount of research that should be done before deciding to sue a multi-billion dollar company.  It states the most common causes of action are torts, losses caused by another who then is legally rendered at fault, such as assault, battery, invasion of privacy, fraud, slander, negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Now, I’ll make a reasonable conclusion that the JUUL Corporation didn’t plant spy cameras in their USB-like devices and I’ll assume the cause of action the plaintiffs are justifying their lawsuit with would be negligence. Legally, negligence requires four criteria to be met to be a valid cause of action for a lawsuit.

These four are:

  1. Duty, the defendant (JUUL) has a duty to others to exercise “reasonable care.”
  2. Breach, the defendant has breached said duty through “an act or culpable omission.”
  3. Damages, as a result of the act the plaintiff (the addicted teenager) has suffered injury or loss.
  4. Causation, the damage to the plaintiff can be seen as a reasonable consequence from the act or omission.

Let’s keep this in mind as we review what’s been happening with the funny little things called juuls, shall we?

I’m not sure how any company got this to look cool.

A company called PAX Labs was started three years ago and about a year ago released the JUUL Corporation as an independent company which at the time of publication controls roughly 70% of the entire US market for e-cigarettes. Founded in California, the CEOs are Standford grads who are also former smokers and profess the company’s mission to be to help smokers quit smoking regular cigarettes. They are valued at a whopping 15 billion dollars (that’s billion with a b, folks). This meteoric rise is without a doubt, very impressive. Which, I will admit, seems a little bit suspect for a company who profess their mission to be helping former smokers. After the 1960s, also known as the Mad Men era, a bunch of studies were released stating that smoking was actually really awful for you. And people stopped. Most people stopped. Granted, some people just kept smoking and are six feet under, or are like those people that local news does stories on that are like 100 and they say their secret is smoking two packs a day and downing a bottle of vodka to chase it down. Suffice it to say the American cigarette market is not as big or as lucrative as it once was. The CDC says only about 15.5% of American adults regularly smoke cigarettes, and if you’re smoking in 2018 I highly doubt you care about the negative impacts to your health, so you probably don’t have much interest in quitting and therefore little interest in juuls. So why is this startup valued at 15 billion dollars?

Well, business is all about sales. Sales increased by 600% in 2017, and in the past year have increased by about 783%. The past few weeks have seen even higher growth with sales increasing nearly 900%!!! making total sales somewhere around the tune of one billion dollars. Juul is valued so highly because they are the dominant player in a rapidly growing e-cigarette market. But that’s answering a question with another question, leading us to wonder the reasoning for the insane rise of the company. No one really knows for sure, but the best guess would probably be the level of innovation and ingenuity pioneered by this product. It is the first e-cigarette every manufactured to not be the typical, dull cylinder that has long been the status quo of the industry. Everything about the juul from it’s packaging to its design perpetuates the image of a slender, elegant, and refined new e-cigarette that is virtually unrecognizable from anything ever seen before. So the juul looks cool, but what’s actually inside it? While most traditional e-cigarettes contain about 2% nicotine, juuls contain about 5% although the company has recently said they are working on models with a lower nicotine content. And here’s something a lot of articles about the company are overlooking, JUUL has a patented formula that goes inside the cartridges, or “pods.” The exact formula, obviously, is unknown but the key component introduced in it is salt, which mixes quite nicely with nicotine. This innovative blend apparently makes the overall experience of vaping and the smoke it produces much more pleasant for the user. All these things remind me of the rise of another company to prominence. Apple. With the release of the iPhone, they completely changed the entire market of cell phones and made the idea of owning a “smartphone” something that is now thoroughly ingrained in mainstream American consumer culture. JUUL is valued so highly, and their sales are so high because they are the Apple of the e-cigarette industry, an industry that was very meek before JUUl came on the scene. Their advertising and visual design are also very similar, a smart move by those responsible for marketing over at JUUL as minimalism is all the rage now.

Is this a JUUL or the new Apple iUSB Drive?

There’s something more though. How has the JUUl Corporation managed to do in a year something that took cigarette companies decades of careful image curation to brainwash teens into thinking that smoking is cool? Social media. Speaking as an avid user (of social media, not cigarettes or juuls; I’m a good Catholic child of course), I can tell you that juuls are pretty visible on various meme pages or pages dedicated to displaying teenage/college age idiocy. #DoItForJuul or #di4j is a common hashtag, amongst others, on popular Instagram profiles and I’ve seen a fuck ton of people using them while driving or sending videos of them blowing clouds through Snapchat. Oh yeah, and a lot of stuff happens on Twitter, but who the hell uses Twitter anymore, the optimal move is to see screenshots of Twitter on Instagram. Little inside tip right there. At any rate, there is no shortage of free publicity for juuls and there is no shortage of free exposure for the previously unknown product. Platforms like Instagram and Snapchat allowed the California phenomena of the Juul to quickly gain the brand recognition and demand to take the company into stores all across the United States and their sales into the millions.

Not as cuul as a juul.

It is worth noting that it is illegal to buy or use a juul if you are under the age of 18, and the company has stated it would like that age to be raised to 21 federally. But therein lies the predicament for JUUL and the reasoning for the lawsuits against them. Teenagers use the shit out of this product. Like, it’s insane. I feel like everyone and their mother is ripping the fattest clouds in the bathroom, a room renamed to the “juul room” by many on the internet. It’s funny. Well, it’s not that funny considering the sheer number of teenagers getting very addicted to nicotine. Although studies have yet to produce data on the long-term effects of juuls, due to the youth of the product, science has long since concluded nicotine addiction is incredibly bad for your heart and for developing adolescent brains. The long and short of it is is that we know juuls definitely aren’t good for you, but they are better than smoking cigarettes and are a preferable alternative for those already addicted to cigarettes. However, most of the chickenshit freshmen who are smoking up in the bathroom were not previously addicted to regular cigarettes, they have just developed a nicotine addiction due to misuse of the product and underage consumption. That’s the reason for the lawsuit. You are upset that little Jimmy got himself addicted to nicotine. My take? Little Jimmy, you’re a fucking dumbass but that does not entitle you to any compensation.

Let me give an example from a beloved movie, Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. If you don’t know the plot of this movie by now, you clearly lack culture and should really make an effort to remedy that, but the film focuses on the journey of Charlie Bucket, a poor working child, and his Grandpa who inexplicably cured his limp as soon as he had learned his grandchild had won something. They are both invited to a magical chocolate factory, but trouble arises when Grandpa Joe urges Charlie to try the Fizzy Lifting Drink after the tour group has left the room. This is a clear violation of, well common sense, but also of the rules of the tour. They try it anyway, and surprise surprise, bad shit happens. Immediately they begin rising to the ceiling of the room where they see a giant fan that will chop them up into little pieces if they keep flying to the top. Miraculously, they survive by burping and float down to rejoin the tour group. Later in the movie, Willie Wonka chastises the two for blatantly breaking the rules and states this as reasoning for disqualification from the promised rewards said to accompany the tour (a lifetime supply of chocolate). You know what Grandpa Joe doesn’t do? He doesn’t say, “This is ridiculous Wonka! You’ll be hearing from my lawyer because the Fizzy Lifting Drink almost killed us!” You know why he doesn’t say that? Because he isn’t an idiot and he understands the concept of negligence. And because the legal climate was vastly different in 1970s England but that is beside the point. What happened was not an example of negligence. Wonka had a duty to protect and tend to the well being of his guests so long as they remained within the confines of his tour and obeyed the rules stipulated by Wonka himself. Where his duty ends is when his guests stray from the rules and did things that they were not prompted by Wonka, and in all cases were actually told by Wonka to stop. Augustus Gloop ate from the chocolate river, Violet Beauregard ate the prototype gum, Veruca Salt stood on a piece of dangerous machinery, Mike TeeVee used a machine that had previously only been used on inanimate objects, and Charlie tried the Fizzy Lifting Drink. All these damn idiot children broke the rules or misused something that they were warned not to and they all suffered consequences. These idiot kids getting addicted to nicotine are suffering consequences. Nicotine addiction, while not the end of the world and an addiction that can be broken, is a huge burden to impose on someone, especially in adolescence and likely has some long-term consequences. But here’s the thing, the burden was self-imposed. JUUL did not go up to these kids, put the stick in their mouth, and say “Hey kid, rip some fat clouds and misuse the hell out of our product so you can look cool amongst your peer group.”

“None of you shits better try to sue me after this is over.”

Ultimately, teenage usage and addiction is a massive problem with the growing e-cigarette market. Nicotine addiction is probably incredibly detrimental to the development and health of the people using them. I’m sure you parents are upset that your kids are addicted to nicotine. And that sucks. But your kids will get better, if they have a mind to, and if you help them out with it. Here’s the thing though, the legal system is not a vehicle for you to get a nice healthy settlement because you’re disappointed in your parenting ability and the willpower (or lack thereof) of your child. JUUL, as a matter of fact, has recently pledged 30 million dollars to try to reduce teenager usage of their product. Going back to the definition of negligence, while the misuse of juuls have caused damages to the teenagers (addictions to nicotine) the second that a 15-year-old inhales the vapors produced by a juul, the JUUL corporation no longer had any duty to protect them because the product was MISUSED. Unless the company prompts people to misuse their product, which it has not, any damages caused by said misuse do not render the company liable. Again, the key point here, because little Jimmy was not of the legal age to use the product he MISUSED the product. You cannot sue a company if you get hurt by not using their product correctly when the product cannot be purchased by anyone under 18 and has a nicotine content displayed on the package. You can’t sue IKEA because the couch you’ve bought from them is so comfy you’ve stopped exercising, nor can you sue Budweiser because you consume so much of their urine tasting beer that you’ve become an alcoholic. In both those cases, you did suffer damages but after you misused the product the company no longer has any duty to protect the person consuming it. And that is true whether a frozen pizza made you fat, or you are addicted to nicotine because it seemed like a great idea to get into using a product that you were not legally permitted to use, you cannot sue a company because you were hurt due to your ignorance.

To all the teenagers out there using juuls, it’s probably a good idea to stop because nicotine addictions are not doing your personal health any favors. Are you likely to get cancer? Science hasn’t given a firm answer yet, but probably not. Are you shaving years off your life? I doubt it. But being beholden to external factors is just not a good look when you can avoid it. Or keep doing it, you have free will. Where I take issue with juuling is when the parents of those addicted think they are entitled to something because your kid made a poor choice and developed a nicotine addiction. Lastly, to the JUUL Corporation, y’all have been doing some pretty good business and I just have to give respect to you for that. Have they profited from teenagers using their product? Oh hell yeah, I bet. Is it their moral responsibility to stop selling to teenagers? Probably, yes. But a lot of the factors making juuls so popular also makes them popular with teenagers. And I’m not too keen on the idea that this company, or any company, should be punished for creating a great product and innovating an entire industry because some parents are upset their children suck at impulse control.

Best wishes, (drop the lawsuit though)

Patrick Boese

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