Tech

Where Did It All Go So Wrong for Juul?

Producer/Director John Pappas
Reporter/Producer Sheila Kaplan
Reporter Julie Creswell

Watch on Friday, Sept. 17, at 10 p.m. on FX, and stream it on Hulu.

Adam Bowen and James Monsees, by their own telling, set out to improve the lives of a billion people by getting them off cigarettes.

But somewhere on the path from fledgling start-up to Silicon Valley juggernaut, their company, Juul, went tragically off course. Instead of upending Big Tobacco and hastening the end of smoking, Juul’s flavored e-cigarettes became a popular on-ramp for a new generation of nicotine addicts.

Attracted by the candy fruit flavors and vibrant marketing, teenagers like Jackie Franklin found that Juul packed an undeniable rush of nicotine, which she increasingly craved. After becoming hooked in high school, she was vaping as many as three Juul pods a day.

Now, Franklin can’t pedal her bicycle without stopping, short of breath, to puff from an inhaler for what doctors tell her is probably vaping-induced asthma.

“My lungs literally feel like they’re turning to a crisp,” she said. “I can’t explain it — it just hurts so bad.”

In “Move Fast and Vape Things,” a new documentary by The New York Times on FX and Hulu, you’ll hear from public health experts, including Scott Gottlieb, the former head of the Food and Drug Administration, who blames Juul for causing a youth vaping crisis. And some of the advertising and marketing executives who helped make e-cigarettes so appealing to young customers like Franklin now say that the ambivalence they felt before has become full-blown regret.

“Your first instinct is to say: ‘Wow, it’s successful. People are using it,’” Erica Halverson, a former Juul marketing manager, said. “At the other instinct, it’s like, ‘Oh crap, the wrong people are using it.’”

Watch how a company founded with the intention of loosening Big Tobacco’s grip on smokers began following in the footsteps of cigarette makers, leading to a health crisis that ensnared millions of American teenagers.

The New York Times Presents airs on Friday, Sept. 17, on FX and is streaming on Hulu.


Supervising Producer Liz Day
Producer Timothy Moran
Co-Producer Salwa Shameem
Senior Producer Rachel Abrams
Director of Photography Jaron Berman
Video Editor Marlon Singleton


“The New York Times Presents” is a series of documentaries representing the unparalleled journalism and insight of The New York Times, bringing viewers close to the essential stories of our time.

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