Juul Is Trying to Bust People Selling Vapes to Kids as It Fends Off Regulators

Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)

Months after beefing up its secret shopper program here in the U.S., Juul is launching a similar effort in Canada in an effort to keep its products out of the hands of vaping teens.

Juul announced it would be working with a “well-established secret shopping service provider” to ensure that retail locations where its products are sold are properly age-verifying consumers. Its Juul busters will also attempt to curb bulk purchases in an effort to further stamp out the potential for sales to teens. (The company considers a “bulk” purchase anything more than two devices and five packages of its pods.)

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“We want to make sure all our retail partners share our commitment to youth prevention,” Michael Nederhoff, JUUL Labs Canada general manager, said in a statement. “While both convenience stores and vape shops do a good job age testing, we are working with them in the spirit of continuous improvement to do even better. This program will make it more difficult for minors to purchase vaping products and will ensure that our retail partners continue to comply with federal and provincial regulations.”

Back in November, Juul announced it would be ramping up its secret shopper program here in the U.S. as part of its sweeping effort to curb sales to teens amid what outgoing FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb says is an “epidemic” of youth vaping. Juul said that stores violating its terms would face “financial consequences” and repeat offenders could see Juul products pulled from their retail locations.

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Last month, the company said the program had jumped from around 500 monthly visits to retail locations in November to more than 2,000 in January. Juul is sold at more than 90,000 retail locations.

Is secret shopper busting going to put the kibosh on teen vaping? Probably not. Kids can’t legally buy a whole host of substances they manage to get their hands on anyway. But by making it harder to acquire Juul products, the company may at least be making a dent. And in the meantime, it might help save its hide from regulators. 

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