More than half of teenagers who vape use Juul e-cigarettes, and its mint pods are the No. 1 flavor favored by high school kids, according to two new studies published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The studies come amid a spike in teen use of e-cigarettes that's prompted the Trump administration to draft new rules temporarily removing all flavored e-cigarettes from the market until the Food and Drug Administration, which helped fund the studies, can review their safety.
Juul Labs dominates the market for e-cigarettes — so much that the study's authors even noted that their results may be skewed because the term "'Juuling' has become synonymous with vaping for some teens," according to the studies, which measured the prevalence of e-cigarette use among nearly 20,000 teens.
Of the respondents, 27.5% of high school students and 10.5% of eighth graders say they currently use e-cigarettes, with more than half of both groups using Juul as their e-cigarette of choice, according to one of the studies written by FDA researchers using data gathered from the annual National Youth Tobacco Survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Of the approximately 72% of high school students who used flavored e-cigarettes, mint was the most popular flavor. Mango, which Juul recently removed from retailers, was most popular among the 59% of eighth-grade students who use flavored e-cigarettes, according to the research.
Juul removed its popular sweet flavors such as mango and creme from stores last year to help curb underaged use, restricting those sales to its age-verified web site. But a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by a former Juul executive last week claims the company knew teens would instead buy mint, which it was leaving on the market.
"You need to have an IQ of 5 to know that when customers don't find mango they buy mint," then CEO Kevin Burns allegedly told employees, according to the lawsuit. Mint pods accounted for about two-thirds of Juul's total pod sales in February 2019, up from about a third the previous September, the lawsuit alleges.
The researchers noted that mint may have surged in popularity since Juul removed the other flavors from store shelves. Last month, Juul suspended sales of all of its flavors, except mint, menthol and tobacco.
The research was funded by the FDA, National Cancer Institute and National Institute on Drug Abuse. Juul didn't immediately have a comment on the studies.