JERUSALEM (JTA) — Juul’s rapid international expansion hit a speed bump on Tuesday when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu banned the Silicon Valley startup’s e-cigarettes at the request of local health officials.
According to a Health Ministry statement cited by The Times of Israel, the popular e-cigs contain significantly higher levels of nicotine than competing brands and constitute “a grave danger to public health.”
Juul has grown to dominate the U.S. market, making up more than half of domestic sales of e-cigarettes, Bloomberg reported. The devices have proven especially popular among teenagers, fueling concerns that the product, whose sleek USB stick-inspired look borrowed design cues from Apple, will increase the rate of youth smoking.
In a statement reported by The New York Post, Juul Labs said it was “incredibly disappointed” by Netyanyahu’s “misguided” decision, adding that it intended to fight the ban in order to give Israelis “a true alternative to combustible cigarettes.”
The device istself debuted here in May, selling for $32, with packs of four refills costing just under $20.
According to an official Israeli government report, sales of tobacco for water pipes rose 28 percent from 2016 to 2017. In the same time frame, sales of loose tobacco grew by 9.3 percent. The World Health Organization reports that 25.4 percent of Israelis 15 and older smoke tobacco; the global average is 21.9 percent.
Tobacco usage is particularly prevalent in the Israeli military. According to a 2017 study, 36.5 percent of Israelis smoke upon being discharged from the army in comparison to 26.2 percent before being drafted.
A 2009 analysis showed that smoking rates among Jewish men and women were 27.9 percent and 16.6 percent, respectively. Among Arabs, the corresponding rates were 48.8 percent and 5.2 percent. A 2017 article reported similar findings.