According to new data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration, disposable e-cigarettes like Puff Bar are now significantly more popular among teenagers than Juul’s once-dominant pod-based devices (FDA).
Every year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) survey thousands of middle and high school students in the United States about their use of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, which were designed to provide adult smokers with a less-harmful alternative to cigarettes but have recently become popular among underage users.
The poll in 2021 was done entirely during the epidemic, which meant that some teenagers took it at home rather than in their classes. As a result, the authors of the report warn that it should not be compared to past surveys.
Despite this caution, the data demonstrates significant changes in teen vaping patterns during the pandemic. Only about 11% of high school students and 3% of middle school students indicated they had vaped in the 30 days preceding to taking the survey, compared to 20% and 5%, respectively, last year. According to the report’s authors, this is largely due to remote learning affecting students’ access to e-cigarettes, but there’s no guarantee the decreased trend will continue in the future.
Teens’ attitudes on e-cigarettes are also shifting rapidly. Juul, a firm that sells flash-drive-like devices that run on prefilled cartridges of nicotine e-liquids, has long been regarded to be the most popular brand among teenagers, and has been chastised for marketing to them. (The business has repeatedly denied targeting teenagers on purpose.)
However, more than half of students who vaped indicated they used disposable e-cigarettes, while roughly 29% said they used pod-based products, according to the latest study. Approximately 85 percent of young vapers used flavors such as fruit, candy, and mint. Only 6% of high school vapers said Juul was their preferred brand, compared to 26% who said Puff Bar—a company that sells disposable e-cigarettes in flavors like Blue Razz and Watermelon—was their preferred brand.
Puff Bar was taken off the market by the FDA in 2020 for violating regulatory criteria, but it reappeared this year using a sort of lab-made nicotine that some in the vaping business believe the FDA has no authority over. TIME reached out to Puff Bar for comment, but they did not answer.
Disposable items are not subject to the same regulations as pod-based devices like Juul, which could explain some of the shift in teen preferences. In an effort to curb the teen vaping epidemic, the FDA banned the sale of any flavored pods that had not been approved by the agency at the start of 2020; as a result, Juul currently only sells menthol and tobacco-flavored liquids. Many adult e-cigarette users like flavored goods, thus the restriction was contentious. It did not apply to disposable vapes, which is why a variety of flavors are still accessible.
That may not remain the case for long. Last September, all e-cigarette manufacturers in the United States were required to submit applications demonstrating that their products were good to public health—that their potential health concerns outweighed their appeal among youths and recreational users. More than a million applications for flavored e-cigarettes have been denied by the FDA, meaning they are no longer authorized to sell in the United States. It is still considering applications from well-known brands like Juul and Vuse, the tobacco corporation R.J. Reynolds’ e-cigarette.
Many public-health organizations have criticized Juul’s application, urging the FDA to reject it because of the company’s participation in the teen vaping epidemic. Juul may have contributed to the emergence of the problem, but as new government data show, the flame has mostly died out.