On Monday, July 29th, California-based JUUL Labs opened its first Canadian retail location in Toronto’s west-end area.

Since Ottawa formally legalized vaping in May of 2018 and in so doing opened the market there to popular brands of vapor products, JUUL has skyrocketed in popularity to capture 78% of the Canadian vapor products market. Not everyone is pleased, particularly in light of the corresponding surge in minors who reported having experimented with vapor products in the month preceding surveys administered by David Hammond, a public health professor at the University of Waterloo.

According to GlobalNews, Hammond’s findings indicated an increase from 8.4 percent of experimenting minors in 2017 to 14.6 percent in 2018, an increase of 74 percent. Meanwhile, JUUL Director of Government Relations Nick Kadysh points out JUUL’s ongoing efforts to counteract minors getting their hands on JUUL’s products.

Those efforts include stringent third-party age verification for online sales, a “secret shopper” program which seeks to ensure that third-party retailers follow JUUL’s guidelines for age verification and prevention of bulk purchases, and penalizes violators with blacklisting or even reporting them to Health Canada. Within its own new Toronto retail store, age verification is strictly enforced before customers are even permitted into the store proper. Even once inside and able to handle JUUL’s products, customers aren’t permitted to test the products — indoor vaping being illegal.

Still public health authorities such as Hammond aren’t quite satisfied that JUUL is doing enough. He takes particular issue with JUUL employing print advertising at points of sale, saying,

“I think it is (disingenuous) at best for any company to suggest that those types of ads don’t reach kids when it is literally inches from the candy.”

Kadysh objects to this criticism, pointing out that the ads are intended to lure adult smokers away from a purchase of combustible cigarettes to the less harmful alternative, not to lure minors into a purchase which the retailer should not permit to go forward.

While Hammond wishes to see more stringent regulation, he mentions that he’s not on board with the Prohibitionist approach taken by cities such as San Francisco:

“We can actually control these products more by having them regulated than just trying to push them under the blanket. I think it would be a shame if we had to ban them outright because of their potential to help with adult smokers, but we need to find some way of reducing access to kids for sure.”

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