Attention teenage vapers: there will be no more flavoured e-cigarettes for you. This means no mango, berry, crème, or cucumber pods! To some of us this may seem like a bizarre joke. But to over three million teenagers across the United States, this news equals nothing short of the apocalypse.
Following years of intense public and governmental pressure, Juul Labs, a San Francisco based company which dominates the American e-cig market (raising $751 million in investment and generating $15 billion in revenue since its founding), announced on Tuesday that it will suspend sales of virtually all flavoured pods and shut down its social media promotions targeting young Americans. The announcement by Juul (which was followed by several other e-cigarette companies in the U.S. that vowed to crack down on teenage usage of their products) came as a response to an FDA imposed deadline set for the company to devise a plan in order to eradicate the teenage vaping epidemic raging across the country. Yet, many remain highly sceptical that Juul’s actions will bear a significant impact on a teenage population that grows increasingly dependent on the nicotine pumping device.
E-cigarettes were launched as an alternative to smokers who wished to maintain consumption of nicotine without the tar and carcinogens involved in cigarette smoking. But removing the goopy gunk from the smoking experience spawned a whole new problem: rapidly increasing levels of nicotine addiction among nonsmoking teenagers. Teenage vaping became a serious issue in 2015 when Juul first hit the U.S. market. Unlike the previous, clunky vapes available, Juul’s devices resemble a slick and modern flash drive; the mist it emits is practically odourless, which resolves the problem of bad breath and makes vaping accessible and easy to hide from parents and teachers. The flavours (diverse and on the pseudo-sophisticated side) prove to be a massive hit among youngsters. All of these factors combined have morphed what is now referred to as “Juuling” into a seemingly safe and quasi-hip activity among millions of American teenagers.
The innocuous appearance of Juuling, however, is highly misleading. It has been scientifically proven that teenagers, whose brains aren’t fully developed yet, require less exposure to nicotine in order to become addicted. A study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine confirms that 11 percent of all high school students (roughly 1.7 million) had vaped within the last month. The study further reports that vaping teenagers are at a significantly higher risk of segwaying into cigarette smoking. Concerned parents and teachers across America have endeavoured to quash the vaping inferno, but thus far to no avail. Within a matter of three years, the situation has descended into a big Juuling mess.
The intensifying threats by the FDA and various local authorities have led Juul to announce it will cease distribution of most fruity flavours in retail stores and gas stations. Juul has also declared that it will close its U.S. based Facebook and Instagram accounts (with tens of thousands of followers) on which ads were circulated to target young vapers. The company has further announced that it will from now on employ top notch technology on its website (including a real-time face recognition programme) in order to ensure that no underaged users are able to purchase their products online.
Many, however, worry that Juul is doing ‘too little, too late’ to crack down on teenage vaping. Firstly, the company is only due to halt sales of flavoured pods, which represent just 55 percent of its sales, as its mint, menthol, and tobacco pods will continue to be distributed, (Juul refuses to reveal data concerning how popular these flavours are among the youth). Furthermore, Juul’s suspension of its U.S. based social media accounts is unlikely to stem the online circulation of their ads, seeing as the company’s success on social media has always relied heavily on others’ activity rather than its own. In an interview for WIRED, Vince Willmore, a spokesperson for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids said, “Even if Juul pulls back, young customers will keep doing the marketing for them through their own posts on Instagram, YouTube, and other social media.”
The FDA took to Twitter shortly after Juul’s announcement, declaring that the company’s voluntary actions cannot come instead of government-imposed regulations. Skeptical of the FDA’s ‘all talk no action’ track record when it comes to standing up to e-cig companies, many private attorneys and cities (including LA, Chicago, and Philadelphia) have launched their own offensives against Juul, filing various types of lawsuits against the company and vowing to quash the public epidemic.
In the meantime, we should educate ourselves about the true nature of vaping and its effect on the youth. Those of us who took up smoking at a relatively young age may be less alarmed by this phenomena, yet we owe it to the next generation to have a chance at a nicotine-free existence.
Since the DNA testing craze began, we’ve seen the technology being used in some pretty unexpected places. From testing migrant children who have been separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border and are lost in a chaotic system, to Spotify claiming to enrich your listening experience by tapping into your heritage. In fact, you can now use your DNA home-testing kit results to find the perfect skincare, tailor your diet better, find out which sport your child should take up and even understand what skills you have to help you on ski slopes. But one market that has taken a liking to DNA matching is set to grow exponentially with its new personalised angle: the cannabis industry in the U.S.
Strain Genie is a platform that claims to match your DNA results with the type of weed that’s right for you. It does this by partnering with home-testing kits such as 23AndMe, MyHeritage, Ancestry and FamilyTreeDNA, or if you’re new to the field of DNA testing, you can simply request a Cannabis DNA test kit from the company directly. Whether you upload a .txt file from previous results or spit into a brand new test tube, it takes about 24 hours for Strain Genie to process the DNA information and generate a personalised 19-page cannabis report, just for you.
The ‘Cannabis Health Report’ sets out to identify genetic traits in users, such as an elevated risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or carrying a genotype that means you have a reduced CBD metabolism. In an example report Strain Genie makes available on its website, it shows that tips inside the report include a personalised recommendation for the ratio of THC and CBD according to each users’ genotype, which means users can begin to customise the products they consume accordingly. For example, a strand of weed that helps to stimulate memory cells will be recommended to those prone to Alzheimer’s.
Following a general introduction to THC, CBD and genes, the Strain Genie report takes its user on a more visual journey into what it has divided into categories of benefits each user can reach with different cannabis products, and which genres they might benefit from the most. From ‘chill’, ‘energise’, and ‘sleep’, to ‘create’ and ‘medicate’, there is a pathway for each and everyone one of us in the magical world of personalised marijuana. According to Strain Genie, that is.
In a recent article on The Hustle, a media company operating inside your email in the form of newsletters, Zachary Crockett explains how Nicco Reggente, co-founder of Strain Genie, first entered the industry with WoahStock four years earlier in a bid to create the ‘Netflix of weed’. The CEO had co-created a platform “that collects data on thousands of marijuana strains, asks users to fill out a medical questionnaire, then enlists an algorithm to ‘intelligently’ recommend the right products for the right people.” Writes Crockett. With a PhD in neuroscience, Reggente told The Hustle that “I thought, maybe I could leverage DNA to gather information about my customers and help them make better purchasing decisions.” So it only makes sense that the next step for Reggente was to enter the DNA realm and elevate the type of personalisation he offers his customers that one step further.
Having anxiety issues? Purple Voodoo is here to chill you out. Writer’s’ block? Fear no more, Lemon Wreck wants to get your creative juices flowing. And when you think about it, matching strands of cannabis to genotype characteristics makes sense; perhaps more sense than matching a new pair of skis to your DNA.
The legalisation and monetisation of the cannabis market is on a mega rise in the U.S. and other countries where it has been legalised, and is expected to reach $146.4 billion by end of 2025, according to a new report by Grand View Research, Inc. So it comes as no surprise that Reggente is on a mission to lead its personalisation aspect with Strain Genie and WoahStock. Sure there are some questions surrounding the validation of DNA testing and how accurate the results really are. But spending your money on making sure you are getting high on the right substance doesn’t seem like a bad place to start.