In 2018, Caleb Mintz sensed something wasn’t right about a presentation given at his school, the renowned Dwight School on the Upper West Side.
Someone had been brought in to supposedly teach Mintz, then a ninth-grader, and his classmates about the dangers of tobacco and vaping. But the speaker had been sent by Juul Labs, the company behind the discreet vaping device that Mintz and nearly all of his friends had tried.
The man gave a pretty standard spiel except, Caleb noticed, he kept mentioning how safe Juul was.
After the presentation, Caleb and a friend asked the speaker how they might help a pal addicted to nicotine. The man — who wrongly assumed the friend was addicted to cigarettes (he actually had a vaping problem) — took out his Juul to show the boys how it worked.
“I really felt like there was an ulterior motive,” Caleb told author Jamie Ducharme, who reports on the company in her new book “Big Vape: The Incendiary Rise of Juul.”
Indeed there was. In 2018, Juul gave at least three private and public schools $10,000 or more to participate in their Education and Youth Prevention Program, whose stated purpose was “to educate