The Rise and Fall of Vaping: A Look Back

Vaping became wildly popular in a short time with teens and former tobacco smokers—so how did it all fall apart in 2019?

Vaping became wildly popular in a short time with teens and former tobacco smokers—so how did it fall?

In December 2018, Juul Labs was worth an estimated $38 billion. Flash forward to a year later, Juul’s valuation dropped to $24 billion.

The federal crackdown on vape products has undeniably affected many vaping companies, amid reports of illnesses and deaths. With such a dramatic shift in the business of vaping, NowThis broke down how it became popular, and its sudden fall from grace.

Vaping is Introduced to the World

Liquid nicotine vapes were first introduced in Europe in 2006 and quickly entered the U.S. market. The rising popularity of vaping prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to speak up in 2008.

In a statement that same year, the WHO said, “As far as WHO is aware, no rigorous, peer-reviewed studies have been conducted showing that the electronic cigarette is a safe and effective nicotine replacement therapy.”

The FDA Gets Involved

In September of 2008, the FDA confiscated early batches of e-cigarettes, saying they appeared to be “unapproved medical devices” designed to deliver the drug nicotine. Vape manufacturers fought back and took the FDA to court on the grounds that the agency was causing them economic harm.

In 2009, the agency issued a health risk warning about e-cigarettes and in 2010, D.C. District Court Judge Richard J. Leon issued a restraining order against the FDA, saying: “I am not convinced that the threat to the public interest in general or to third parties in particular is as great as the FDA suggests.”

The FDA appealed the order but failed. In 2011, the FDA began addressing vaping under the Tobacco Control Act. Their process called for public comment and in 2014, the agency sought comment on flavored e-cig liquids and the possibility that flavors could appeal to younger customers.

Flavored E-Cigs Become an Issue

According to the CDC, by 2014, vaping among middle and high school students had increased by nearly 800%. This led the FDA to propose a flavor ban on e-cigarettes.

Although four out of five youths who vaped cited flavors as the reason, the Obama administration in 2016 refused to approve a flavor ban but did establish FDA oversight of e-cigarettes.

Illnesses and Death Related to Vaping

In early 2019, reports of vaping-related illnesses began to make headlines. Patients began to report fits of coughing, shortness of breath, and chest pain, before becoming sick, and in the most serious cases, hospitalized. But doctors didn’t know exactly what they had been vaping.

The first death from a vaping-related illness was reported on August 23, 2019 in Illinois. As of December 10, 2019, 52 deaths have been confirmed in 26 states & D.C., while at least 2,409 hospitalizations have been reported from all 50 states, D.C., and two U.S. territories.

Amid this outbreak, some states attempted to ban flavored e-cigs. San Francisco, where Juul Labs is based, became the first major city in the U.S. to ban the sale of all nicotine e-cigarette products, which goes into effect in 2020.

Black Market Products Cause the Most Harm

Most of the vaping-related illnesses and deaths have been linked to black market THC-containing vape cartridges. The CDC identified vitamin E acetate, a diluent used as a carrier of nicotine and THC for vaporization, as a primary culprit. The agency also named three black market brands: Dank Vapes, TKO, and Smart Cart, as those most commonly used by lung illness patients.

The CDC says cases of a lung illness known as EVALI, or “e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury,” are on the decline. But the CDC is still warning people against vaping anything, including nicotine.