New tracking and locking features have people speculating about whether Juul will create devices that discourage young people from vaping.

By Renee Cherry
August 05, 2019
Juul Labs logo displayed on a smartphone
Credit: SOPA Images/Getty Images

Apparently Juul is entering the world of smart tech: The vaping company introduced a new smart e-cigarette, the C1, in the U.K. and Canada, The Financial Times reports. Though the device is still in the piloting phase, it's drawing attention for its potential to help stop teens from vaping. (Related: How to Quit Juul—and Why It's So Damn Hard)

Here's how Juul's new smart e-cigarette works: Pairing the C1 with a smartphone via Bluetooth lets users track their device if it becomes lost, monitor how many puffs they're taking every day, and lock the device so no one else can use it. The idea of locking and tracking the device has some people speculating about how the new technology could eventually become a child lock of sorts. Several news sources report that Juul is planning to roll out additional geofencing features, which could presumably be used to restrict people from vaping in schools. In reality, though, the C1 smartphone app doesn't track where someone uses their device, and Juul hasn't divulged any details on such future features, says Victoria Davis, a spokesperson for the brand.

The C1's new locking feature does, however, allow Juul owners to use facial-recognition tools to keep other people from using their vape. But least for now, it's not equipped to prevent young people from vaping by using facial recognition that determines age. (Related: Juul Is Developing a New Lower-Nicotine Pod for E-Cigarettes, but That Doesn't Mean It's Healthier)

That said, there is an age-verification measure in place meant to stop underage customers from buying a C1 in the first place. To buy a C1 online, customers have to submit photos of their identification document, which gets checked against a third-party database to verify their identity. From there, they have to sign in to their verified account or go through more verification in order to start using the app. To buy a C1 in a store, they have to provide an ID proving their age.

Unfortunately, though, age verification hasn't proven to be all that effective in curbing teen vaping. While Juul has an age-restriction feature when buying any of its products online and an ID is required to legally purchase one, vaping among U.S. teens has reached "an epidemic proportion," according to the FDA. (Related: What Is Juul and Is It Better for You Than Smoking?)

An illustration shows the contents of an electronic Juul cigarette box in Washington, DC October 2, 2018. - In just three years, the electronic cigarette manufacturer Juul has swallowed the American market with its vaporettes in the shape of a USB key. Its success represents a public health dilemma for health authorities in the United States and elsewhere
Credit: EVA HAMBACH/AFP/Getty Images

ICYMI, Juul has taken a lot of heat over the years for contributing to the rise in teen vaping, with critics arguing that the company's flavored pods and discreet USB design appeal to young people. And the ramifications of widespread vaping among young people might be catching up to us: Last week, news spread that 14 teens and young adults were hospitalized in Wisconsin and Illinois for breathing problems that might've stemmed from vaping.

To address the situation, the FDA recently demanded that Juul and other vape companies make an effort to curb teen use. Juul has since stopped selling some of its sweet-sounding flavors online and shut down its Instagram and Facebook accounts. The FDA also now requires pre-market approval for new e-cigarettes, so don't expect to see the C1 being sold in the states any time soon.