Amid a series of lawsuits accusing the company of targeting underage users, e-cigarette maker Juul has revealed plans to use Bluetooth connectivity to help prevent use of its vaporizers by underage users, or even around schools.
Juul Chief Executive Kevin Burns confirmed to Bloomberg that his company will launch Bluetooth-connected Juul units in October, starting in Israel and Western Europe.
With wireless connectivity, Juul plans to be able to verify the age of users with the new connected models. Bluetooth geofences may also be set up around schools to ensure the devices cannot be used near them, the company said.
Juul also plans to let smokers track their nicotine consumption via its new Bluetooth-connected e-cigarettes.
The moves come after the company has been hit by a number of lawsuits, as well as an investigation by the attorney general in Massachusetts, accusing the company of targeting users under the age of 18. The company offers flavors such as fruit medley, mango, cool cucumber, and creme brulee, which critics contend are enticing to children who are not of legal age to use products containing nicotine.
However, Juul has not announced plans to bring Bluetooth-based restrictions to its products in the U.S.
That’s because any such updates would require the company to get approval from the Food and Drug Administration — Juul and other e-cigarette brands that launched before 2016 are grandfathered in, but new rules prevent product updates from hitting the market without federal approval.
OWI Insight: It remains to be seen how Juul will implement and enforce its Bluetooth-based age verification checks with updated products. If the feature is mandatory and places too much friction on the end user, it’s possible that the capabilities could push e-cigarette consumers to other brands that do not adhere to the same restrictions. The same game of cat-and-mouse has played out in countless other industries, where companies try to restrict use and access, while savvy users find ways around those restrictions. Sometimes the end result of that struggle is that less-savvy users are hampered by a sub-par product experience.