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E-cigs whistleblower

Mail On Sunday Newspaper - November 2018

A whistleblower contacted us to raise conerns that e-cigarettes said to be aimed at children were being sold in the UK.

We put the whistleblower in touch with the Mail on Sunday newspaper and helped to conduct an investigation.

Please read the resultant newspaper article below.


With their sleek design and clever marketing, they have been described as the iPhone of e-cigarettes.

But despite being blamed for an epidemic of teenage tobacco addiction in the US, Juul e-cigarettes are being openly promoted to families in British supermarkets, a Mail on Sunday investigation can reveal.

The vaping products, with alluring flavours such as Mango Nectar and Royal Creme, are being rolled out in Sainsbury’s stores in a move which critics say could tempt school children to try the brand.

Although experts believe vaping can help adult smokers to quit cigarettes, numerous studies have found underage smokers who start vaping can become hooked on nicotine – and then take up smoking.

Authorities from the Food and Drug Administration in the US are poised to announce severe restrictions on the sale of vaping products, in particular the sweetened flavours that appeal to children.

Juul, a Californian company worth £11 billion, has been pulling some of the flavours from US shelves in what is being seen as a pre-emptive action.

But in the UK, their availability is only set to increase following Juul’s new partnership with Sainsbury’s, which will see its products being available in 1,500 stores. They will also be available in vape stores on the nation’s high streets and Selfridges.

The e-cigarettes are now on open display at eye level in supermarket aisles in branches in Warrington and Worcester, and in Shirley in the West Midlands and Taunton and Bridgwater in Somerset. In a branch of the store in Selhurst, South London, the products were in the same aisle as nappies and baby products.

Each ‘pod’ inserted into the product dispenses 14mg of nicotine – equivalent to around one third of a packet of cigarettes. Critics have accused Juul of actively targeting children and last month the FDA seized documents from its headquarters to study its sales and marketing practices.

A campaign by Juul went viral on Snapchat, YouTube and Instagram thanks to its use of a combination of trendy images, younger models and cool catchphrases.

A study by US academics revealed Juul is so popular on social media it has become a verb, with users describing ‘trying to juul in the bathroom’.

Dr Jonathan Winickoff, a professor at Harvard Medical School, has said: ‘If you were to design your ideal nicotine delivery service to addict large numbers of American kids, you’d invent Juul. It’s absolutely unconscionable. The earlier these companies introduce the product to the developing brain, the better the chance they have a lifelong user.’

Juul is so successful it had a 72 per cent share of the £1.8 billion US e-cigarette market in 2016. The market is projected to reach £2.8 billion this year. In the UK, there are an estimated three-million vapers in an industry worth £1 billion.

While tobacco products now cannot be openly displayed, e-cigarette products are exempt from such laws.

A Juul spokesman said: ‘We are adamant that no young person or non-nicotine user should ever try our product.’

A Sainsbury’s spokesman said: ‘We’re expanding our vaping range to ensure we’re offering customers choice, quality and value.’