UUL Labs has launched a program to promote partnerships with businesses and managed healthcare and insurance companies to offer JUUL products to employees who want to quit smoking.
According to a story published by CNBC, the San Francisco-based vape company is building an “enterprise markets team,” led by former Cardinal Health executive Douglas Roberts, who was hired by JUUL last year. The team has 17 employees so far.
Roberts told CNBC he has spent several months meeting with employers in the public and private sectors. “It’s pretty consistent what we’re hearing,” he said, “which is what’s out there today is not working, and people are really looking to get their arms around how do they provide alternatives to large groups and large masses of people who really haven’t had effective alternatives.” He told CNBC that JUUL will design a plan to help smokers switch from cigarettes to vaping.
JUUL added four flavors to its U.S. line of 3 percent pods yesterday, and Canadian customers also have the choice of 1.5 percent nicotine pods. JUUL appears to be putting the pieces in place to facilitate a step-down system similar to what vapers have used informally for many years. Smokers could switch to vaping with a high nicotine strength, and then lower their nicotine use in stages.
The team will target healthcare organizations and self-insured companies that are unhappy with the results of their smoking cessation plans. Those plans typically offer FDA-approved pharmaceutical products like varenicline (Chantix) and nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products like nicotine gum, patches and lozenges.
JUUL Labs is not approved to make medical claims about its products, but that wouldn’t prevent a business from deciding to encourage employees to switch to a vapor product. JUUL is prohibited from making the claim that its products can help smokers quit.
If JUUL chose to pursue approval as a therapeutic cessation product, the company would have to apply to the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), and provide extensive clinical trials and other exacting research to prove JUUL’s effectiveness. No vape company has ever pursued drug approval, mainly because of the high cost and restrictions that prevent rapid innovation.
Despite not being approved as a quit-smoking product, a recent study commissioned by JUULshowed that 47 percent of almost 8,000 smokers had quit smoking after three months os using the JUUL. It will take larger studies to prove that those results can be predictably repeated, but even half that number would be a remarkable achievement. NRT products typically help 3-9 percent of smokers to quit.
The JUUL study isn’t the only recent good news on the smoking cessation front. A clinical trial in the U.K. showed that vapes were twice as effective as NRT helping smokers remain abstinent for one year. Vaping products in the U.K. cannot exceed 20 mg/mL, which makes the clinical trial even more impressive. The standard JUUL starter kit and replacement pods sold in the U.S. use 59 mg/mL e-liquid, and presumably would be much more effective for smokers switching to vapor.