Juul Labs Inc. has launched an electronic cigarette product that can be paired with Bluetooth to help monitor usage and lock device when not in use.
The C1 version of top-selling e-cigarette Juul is being tested in pilot programs in Canada and the United Kingdom “to help adult smokers in their switching journey and combat unauthorized use.”
Juul has a 74.5% market share in the U.S. The e-cigarette has drawn criticism for its popularity among teenagers that the Food and Drug Administration has said is contributing to a national epidemic.
Juul said C1 allows smokers to monitor in real time the number of puffs they take daily, weekly and monthly.
The device can be manually locked or set to automatically lock when not in use or not in proximity of the connected smartphone. The GPS technology helps smokers find their Juul device when misplaced.
“As we gather insights from customers, we plan to expand the roll-out further in Canada and the U.K., and potentially in other international markets,” the company said.
There have been media reports in the U.K. that Juul could use the Bluetooth technology to collect smokers’ usage habits, including health data.
Juul said in a statement Monday that “we de-identify the usage data and don’t store it with the name of the customer.”
“No GPS data is shared with JUUL. The GPS location data used for the device locator feature is only contained on a customer’s smartphone.”
Juul said the data it is collecting through the C1 device includes: errors and diagnostics to help resolve technical problems; user’s phone number to authenticate the account; personal information, including a user’s name, birth date and official identity document number, “only to verify that the customer is of the legally-accepted age to purchase and use our products.”
Juul said it “will never sell customer data or share it with third parties without a person’s explicit permission, or in compliance with applicable legal and regulatory requirements.”
Juul entered the mainstream retail marketplace in 2015 and has proven that a startup manufacturer can compete with the Big Three manufacturers: Philip Morris USA, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and ITG Brands LLC.
The e-cig is sold in the form of a pen or a USB flash drive that’s easy to use — and hide — because the vapor typically does not have a smell and quickly dissipates.
That product model and non-tobacco flavorings have drawn scrutiny from the Food and Drug Administration and public-health groups.
The FDA launched its youth e-cig campaign in April 2017 with Juul square in the cross-hairs.
In May, N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein filed a lawsuit against Juul over accusations that it targets underage youths with its products.
Stein wants a judge to require Juul to: cease selling e-cigs to N.C. minors; limit the flavors sold in the state; stop advertising and marketing practices that are intended to or likely to appeal to minors; and delete all data for customers whom Juul cannot confirm are at least 18.
Stein is requesting civil penalties and disgorgement of Juul profits from “its unfair and deceptive practices to the state.”