Juul has applied for a patent regarding a device, supposedly powered by artificial intelligence, that the company says could help users quit nicotine by restricting daily consumption and gradually weaning them off the product. The e-cigarette company applied for the patent last summer, and the application was recently made public, according to The Logic.
The patent application describes a device that would work “in communication” with a vaporizer (used to vape nicotine) and would alternate nicotine and a similar, non-nicotine product, such as citric acid, to gradually reduce the user’s nicotine intake. According to the application, a “controller may apply machine learning to adjust delivery of nicotine and/or non-nicotine vaporizable material” based on the users’ behavior (using a “plurality of puffs”). That behavior “may be learned through monitoring the vaporizer use and behavior of the user,” the application states.
So by training your vaporizer to learn how often and how much you vape nicotine, Juul’s proposed device — which could be connected to a smartphone, according to the patent application — would determine how and when to substitute the non-nicotine product to taper you off the addictive chemical.
This is an idea Juul has been floating for a while: James Monsees, Juul’s co-founder and chief product officer, told TechCrunch in 2018 that the company was planning a smartphone-connected device that would authenticate users and help them quit if they wanted to. “There will be a machine learning algorithm that’s going to smooth that out for you, so that you don’t even really have to think about it you request it. But we make it as easy for you as possible,” Monsees said at the time.
While it may seem counterintuitive for an e-cigarette company to help users quit vaping nicotine, Juul has been under intense criticism for how its products may have contributed to a rise in youth vaping. It’s also been the target of numerous investigations and legal actions over its marketing and the company’s claims that its products are designed in part to help people quit smoking.
In November, New York announced it was suing the company for deceptive advertising. The lawsuit says the company downplayed health risks and used deceptive advertising that “significantly contributed to the public health crisis that has left youth in New York and across the country addicted to its products,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said at the time. North Carolina and California have also sued the company over its advertising practices, and the Federal Trade Commission is investigating Juul over its use of influencers in a marketing pilot.
Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it would order companies to pull flavored e-cigarette cartridges — mainly favored by teenagers— from the market.