Flavored Juul pod prices spike following suspension of retail orders

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Photo Credit: Pedro Luna | Daily Texan Staff

Students hooked on mango Juul pods must now pay more to get their nicotine fix in West Campus after Juul Labs announced Nov. 13 it stopped accepting retail orders for its flavored pods.The decision, part of a nationwide initiative to curb smoking and vaping among young people, came after the Food and Drug Administration said in September it would give the market’s top five e-cigarette manufacturers 60 days to submit “plans” to address widespread use by minors.

“Our intent was never to have youth use JUUL products,” Juul Labs CEO Kevin Burns said in a statement. “But intent is not enough, the numbers are what matter, and the numbers tell us underage use of e-cigarette products is a problem.”

Per the FDA’s request, Burns’ plan included suspending sales of its mango, fruit, creme and cucumber flavored pods and eliminating its social media accounts.

Bikram Bk, employee at the Shell in West Campus, said retail prices for flavored Juul pods have increased since retailers must now order through third-party suppliers, rather than from Juul itself. 

Bk said before Juul’s announcement, a pack of mango Juul pods at Shell cost $15.99. Now, that same pack costs $22.99. Whatever pods retailers currently have will be sold until they run out.

“The wholesale suppliers are charging us more because they know the supply is limited,” Bk said. “We used to pay between $75 and $77 for six cases of mango (Juul) pods, and now we have to pay $120. We have to make a little money, so that means we increase the price customers pay in store.”

Billy Marsden, owner of The Glassmith truck in West Campus, said approximately 50 percent of his revenue comes from Juul products, almost exclusively from mint and mango pods. Marsden said he’s now charging $20 per flavored pack, compared to $15 before Juul’s announcement.

“As long as I have mango pods, I’ll make more money,” Marsden said. “When mango pods run dry, then I will go back to making the amount of money that I was before because I think most people will smoke mint instead of mango.”

Juul’s mint pods, along with its other tobacco and menthol-based products, were not affected by the announcement. However, young people who normally smoke flavored products are unlikely to switch to a nonflavored product, said Alexandra Loukas, principal investigator of UT’s Tobacco Research and Evaluation Team.

In a study conducted last year by Loukas and other UTHealth researchers, three-fourths of young users said they would no longer use the product if it was not flavored.

“A tobacco-flavored product is not as appealing to new users as a flavor is,” Loukas said. “Especially something like gummy bear or candy or fruit, which we often see when it comes to e-cigarettes.”

Loukas said Juul’s decision is a step in the right direction, but there are loopholes that still leave room for youth access, including ordering online from Juul or other suppliers.

“I’m not sure just not selling them is really enough for young adults and adolescents,” Loukas said. “I think a lot of people are getting products off the internet anyway. Now it just requires a little more planning to order your stuff and still get (it) delivered within 24 hours.”