The New York Times just released its new one hour documentary on the origins of Juul, Move Fast and Vape Things. (You can watch a trailer and some clips from the film and link to Hulu, where the full film is available, here.) The film includes interviews with an addicted teen, the two men who played important roles in developing Juul’s amazingly effective marketing campaigns that helped it hook millions of kids, who now regret their roles, frank interviews with former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and Center for Tobacco Products Director Mitch Zeller from the FDA, NY Times reporters who covered the story, others, and me.
Jim Monsees and Adam Bowen (pictured above), who invented Juul, are not interviewed but speak through public appearances.
The basic story line is how the culture of Silicon Valley (move fast and break things and make a lot of money as fast as possible) combined with Juul’s important innovations (making a product that looked cool, nicotine salts to increase the addictive hit, and strong marketing) led to its huge financial success and the epidemic of youth nicotine addiction.
The assumption was always that e-cigarettes would be a good thing. No one in the company seriously considered whether they would actually help people quit smoking or what the adverse health effects would be.
The film also shows how Monsees and Bowen used the UCSF Truth Tobacco Documents Library to learn from the tobacco companies how to use acid to increase the nicotine hit in their products. (That’s certainly not what we had in mind when we launched the collection, but it is a consequence of the fact that we made it freely available to anyone.)
The interviews provide insights into how e-cigarettes — at least Juul — led the FDA to question its support for e-cigarettes as part of its “comprehensive nicotine strategy.” As the film points out in the epilogue, the FDA still has not decided whether or not to issue Juul a marketing order to allow it to continue to be sold in the USA.
The film is well worth watching.
Useful fact: In the film people talk about how many Juul pods they consumed. A pod delivers about as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.