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Silicon Valley startup Juul has just released a new e-cigarette which will monitor its user data, including when and where they vape, reports The Financial Times. The Juul C1, which has just been rolled out in Canada and the United Kingdom and will presumably soon be made available in the United States, also connects to facial recognition software in order to verify the user’s age, in a bid to deter vaping among underage consumers.
“The objective of us designing this product was not for us to collect data per se,” says Juul’s Dan Thomson. “It was to be able to give data to customers.” The company states that it has no designs to sell this data to third parties at this time.
If the idea of a vape pen which spies on you sounds dystopian, well, that’s because it is. But it might also be necessary in order to stem the rise of nicotine addiction in young people. The FDA has warned that vaping could lead to a teenage “addiction epidemic,” with new research finding that teenagers who vape are statistically more likely to start smoking tobacco. More than 20 per cent of high school students have used an e-cigarette, and teen vaping has become such a problem that some school districts have started carrying out nicotine testing.
Companies like Juul have faced fierce criticism for their role in this trend, particularly the way they market their products. While it is illegal to sell e-cigarettes to anyone under 18, Juul pods are packaged in bright colors with sweet flavors, prompting accusations that the company is intentionally targeting a young audience — and then there is the fact that Juul representatives have reportedly gone into schools and told ninth graders that their products are perfectly safe.
With the C1, Juul plans to do more to limit use of its products among and around teenagers and children, including geofencing features which will prevent vaping in public areas and schools.