Research & Analysis

December 12, 2019

peer-reviewed study recently published in the journal Addictive Behavior Reports, identifies social sources (e.g., friends or peers) as the predominant source of access to JUUL products among underage users between the ages of 13 and 17 years old. The study, “Sources of youth access to JUUL vaping products in the United States” sought to better understand underage access points to JUUL products in the United States.

The Centre for Substance Use Research (CSUR) conducted the cross-sectional study which assessed use of JUUL products in a non-probability, nationally representative sample of 9,865 U.S. adolescents between the ages of 13-17 years. Survey data was collected in November and December of 2018.  Study participants were asked whether they had used a JUUL product in the past 30 days and, if so, how they had accessed the product. Those who reported having bought JUUL products themselves were asked where and from whom they had purchased the products (e.g., a gas station or convenience store, on the internet, from a friend, etc.).

An estimated 79.6% of self-reported past 30-day JUUL users in the study had obtained the product from at least one social source (e.g., “I had someone else buy them for me” or “someone offered it to me”), and 77.5% had obtained the products exclusively from a social source. By comparison, 20% of underage JUUL users in the study reported having purchased the product themselves at least once, with the most common place of direct purchase being a “gas station or convenience store,” followed by “a grocery store,” “a vape store or other store that only sells e-cigarettes,” and “on the internet,” respectively.

The results from this study are consistent with other studies finding the majority of access to tobacco and vapor products occurs via social sourcing. The data also provide important insight into specific regulatory measures that can effectively prevent underage access. Study authors noted, “that the majority of youth users of JUUL vaping products in this study accessed JUUL products through social sources suggests that youth access to JUUL products may be more effectively reduced by laws and ordinances that have the effect of disrupting the social availability of JUUL products to youth.”

To this point, JUUL Labs has taken a series of comprehensive measures to combat social sourcing of its products, including advocating for Tobacco 21 laws which raise the minimum-purchasing age for tobacco and vapor products to 21, and have been proven to reduce underage access to tobacco and vapor products. Additionally, JUUL Labs has established bulk-purchasing limits for authorized retailers of JUUL products to limit the amount of product that can be purchased per transaction (one device and four packs of JUULpods). 

In August 2019, JUUL Labs also introduced a set of technology-based standards for retail stores that automatically blocks the sale of any JUUL product until a valid, of-age, government issued I.D. is electronically scanned to verify age and I.D. validity. These standards also automatically limit the amount of JUUL products that can be purchased to one device and four packs of JUULpods, in line with the company’s retailer bulk-purchasing limits. Data indicate that implementing this system dramatically improves retailer compliance with age-verification and bulk-purchase requirements. These actions are a part of the company’s multi-pronged strategy to prevent underage access to vapor products and curb youth use in the United States, which has emerged as a serious problem in recent years.

“These new data points are critical to helping us evaluate how adolescents access JUUL products in the real world, and to inform our own policies and actions to prevent underage use of all vapor products, including JUUL,” said Dr. Mark Rubinstein, Executive Medical Officer at JUUL Labs.