The company behind the 'iPhone of vaporizers' is reinventing the e-cigarette
The Pax 2 vaporizer, so sleek and ubiquitous that it's been called the "iPhone of vaporizers," made it classy to get high in public.
The device has a brushed aluminum body featuring clean lines and activation sensors in the mouthpiece. It monitors the oven temperature every 30 seconds, allowing for a smooth hit of loose-leaf tobacco or marijuana every time.
Now the creator of the device, Pax Labs, hopes to reinvent the smoking experience for cigarette fans. The startup wants to dominate over cheap, disposable e-cigarettes with an attractive and easy-to-use device called the Juul, which Pax Labs says has the highest repeat buy rate in the e-cigarette market.
On August 22nd, the company announced the appointment of a new CEO, Tyler Goldman - former CEO of North America at Deezer, a global digital music streaming service. He tells Business Insider that Juul could easily outpace the Pax 2's one million units sold and generate a bulk of the company's revenue next year.
"Topics like marijuana have gotten a lot of coverage, and it's sexy," Goldman says. "... But the evolution of the e-cigarette is going to have a more profound effect."
Despite the tobacco market's huge size, innovation has lagged in the industry. Most e-cigarettes come in two varieties. There's the pen-like device designed to look like a cigarette, and there's the clunky, tin boxes that make you feel like you're pulling from a Walkman music player. Neither provides an experience comparable to smoking a cigarette, according to Goldman.
The Juul is a long, thin rectangular device with a glittering metallic finish. A diamond-shaped opening at the top reveals the pack of liquid nicotine inside, which Pax sells in four flavors. Users need only place their lips on the mouthpiece and inhale to activate the heat source, whereas some devices require users to unscrew the cap and fill a chamber with liquid.
The cartridges, or "Juulpods," set the device apart. While most e-cigarettes use a form of nicotine called "free-base," Juulpods contains a concentrated juice cocktail of salts and organic acids found in tobacco leaves. This combination more closely resembles the ingredients in a cigarette, and thus, tastes more like one, according to Goldman.
Is it safer? We don't really know.
Most research suggests e-cigarettes are less harmful than conventional cigarettes because they don't require lighting a material on fire and inhaling the carcinogens and toxins that go along with it. But nicotine is still dangerous, and the long-term effects of e-cigarette use are unknown.
An engineer on the R&D team at Pax Labs told Engadget in 2015, "anything about health is not on our mind." When I asked a company spokesperson to clarify its vision moving forward, she said that Pax Labs is on a mission to "reinvent the smoking experience," not make it safer.
Still, the Juul is selling out at convenience stores even as the e-cigarette category has stalled overall. Pax Labs has experienced 94% sales growth since the start of 2016.
when someone pulls a juul out at a party pic.twitter.com/uYuXkFXnXi- Agent Moneybags (@koeyjopyta) August 14, 2016
@joerogan listening to your podcast. Try Juul. Best e-cig ever. Hits just like a cigarette.- gevork (@gev0rk) August 10, 2016
The Juul pen and starter pod retails for $49.99, and a four-pack of cartridges runs $15.99. Each Juulpod is roughly the equivalent of a pack of smokes, or 200 puffs.
The same technology used in the Juul might someday be applied to a marijuana oil vape pen, like the popular Highlighter vaporizer by Bloom Farms. But Goldman says we won't see new products from Pax Labs until the company has perfected its existing ones.
Goldman says tobacco companies have cleared the way for Pax to innovate. "I did not expect that the major tobacco companies would not have been more innovative," Goldman says. "I don't think it's because they have a secret desire to keep people smoking cigarettes. I think it has to do with the fact that they really didn't have the technical know-how to build a better experience."
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