US ecigarette group Juul launches in Britain

San Francisco vaping start-up Juul launched in the UK on Tuesday as it seeks to wean the country’s 7.4m smokers off traditional cigarettes and tap into the world’s second-largest ecigarette market.

Juul has grown quickly since launching its first vapes in the US in 2015. It dominates its domestic market, accounting for 70 per cent of American ecigarette sales despite its Big Tobacco rivals investing billions of dollars in cigarette alternatives over the past few years.

This month, the company closed the first $650m of a $1.25bn funding round that values Juul at $15bn, with the rest expected to be closed by the end of the month, according to people familiar with the matter. The new funds will be used for international expansion as well as for research and development.

“Smoking has been called the biggest health issues of our time and despite falling rates it still has a massive impact on health,” said James Monsees, the company’s founder. “Juul gives people the satisfaction of smoking so they can switch when they are ready to do so.”

The company’s core mission is to “eliminate combustible cigarettes from the face of the earth”. Mr Monsees said that “cigarettes will be a thing of the past” within 10 to 20 years.

Ecigarettes are most commonly marketed as “switching” products, which encourage smokers to quit traditional cigarettes by providing them with the nicotine hit they crave in non-combustible formats that do not contain tar or carbon monoxide. As cigarette smoking has become less popular in the western world, alternatives, and the UK’s vaping scene, have boomed.

In the UK alone, the number of smokers has been falling since 1974. At the last count, there were about 7.4m smokers of regular cigarettes in the UK and about 2.8m vapers, up from 700,000 in 2012. But while ecigarette use has been on the rise in the US, usage in the UK has plateaued since 2016, following an initial surge.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) in the UK, said: “Ecigarette use in the UK has stagnated since 2013, to the detriment of public health. If Juul takes off in the UK as it did in the US it could reboot the market and hasten the arrival of the smoke-free future we’re all hoping for.”

Despite the risk that its core consumer base could shrink in the long term— as those who have never smoked generally do not take up vaping — Juul remains confident. While it aims to help customers who want to quit nicotine entirely achieve this goal, it said its products would be available to those who want to continue to consume nicotine in a safer way.

New lines in the pipeline include a “smart” vape that syncs to users’ phones.

However, the science of quitting remains inconclusive: while research by the Centre for Substance Use Research found this year that 64 per cent of US smokers who tried Juul no longer smoked cigarettes, a study this month by researchers at Georgia State University found no evidence that use of ecigarettes made people more likely to give up smoking.

British American Tobacco, Philip Morris International and Imperial Brands, three of the world’s leading cigarette manufactures, have all seen their shares prices fall by at least 10 per cent this calendar year, amid slowing cigarette sales and a sceptical market.

Juul, which is privately owned, only sells ecigarettes and has worked to distance itself from the negative public image big tobacco has struggled to shake off. A Juul vape “purposely doesn’t look like a cigarette, behave like one or taste like one,” said Mr Monsees.


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