Juul Marketing hooks Kids on Nicotine

(August 9, 2019) Under the guise of helping youngsters avoid the hazards of real cigarettes, Juul marketing hooks kids on nicotine. Under a duplicitous, years-long program, the company hooks youngsters on the highly-addictive chemical drug, while it pretends to be performing a public service. Ostensibly, Juul poses as a company that wants to help everyone quit smoking real cigarettes.

Related: Juul sued for creating public health crisis

Juul Problems Grow

One problem now for Juul is that large numbers of those people targeted for smoking “correction” never smoked anything at all, or at least never had a nicotine addiction problem before Juul targeted them.

(Juul Instagram Post 2015)

Juul’s marketing campaigns have been enormously successful in making Juul products appear innocuous to the underage user. As a result of that deceptive advertising, some young people have suffered strokes, lung infections, and other serious injuries after using Juul’s e-cigarettes. Now Juul faces lawsuits from people injured by its products.

Juul Marketed Directly to Underage Users

According to a U.S. House subcommittee that met last month in Washington D.C., Juul deployed a “sophisticated program” that deliberately targeted children and teenagers at schools, summer camps, and public programs. Juul did so in a clear attempt to sell e-cigarettes, according to the subcommittee.

Juul allegedly bought access to children as young as eight, by paying schools and other public programs for an opportunity to present Juul messaging, according to the findings of the Subcommittee on Economy and Consumer Policy.

A Healthy Lifestyle Plan?

Juul even paid $134,000 to one Baltimore-based charter school to set up a five-week summer camp for 80 children in grades 3 through 12. Juul sought to provide a so-called “holistic health education program” that would engage low-income students at risk of making poor health decisions by helping them develop a personal “healthy lifestyle plan.”

Those findings are based on roughly 55,000 documents Juul provided to the subcommittee and the Massachusettes Attorney General. They are detailed in a memo released on the second day of the public hearings last month.

According to the subcommittee, Juul operated a “Youth Prevention and Education program” that paid schools at least $10,000 to access students during school hours, summer classes, or special Saturday programs. The Saturday program was ostensibly designed as a disciplinary alternative for students caught vaping at school.

Parents Against Vaping E-Cigarettes

Parents Against Vaping E-cigarettes testified to congress that Juul representatives showed children how to use an e-cigarette, and also told the children the product was “totally safe.” Emails released by the subcommittee indicate Juul administrators worried about how such programming would appear. Some Juul employees cautiously noted that Big Tobacco once sent similar “youth education” teams to so-called “health fairs.”

• Related: 22-year-old Stroke Victim sues Juul

JUUL Lawsuits Filed

At least four lawsuits were filed against Juul last year by parents, underage users, and others. The suits include allegations that Juul deceptively marketed its product as safe, and targeted underage people and nonsmokers. The lawsuits also claim that Juul is as addictive, or even more addictive, than regular cigarettes. The petitions also allege that Juul’s nicotine salt formula enables higher nicotine absorption into the body than traditional cigarettes or other e-cigarettes containing nicotine liquid.

Juul Response

A Juul spokesperson responded to the lawsuits in an email last year:  “JUUL Labs does not believe the cases have merit and will be defending them vigorously.”

Juul the No. 1 E-Cigarette

The most popular e-cigarette in the U.S., Juul generated more than $1 billion in sales in 2018, which was 300% more than it had in 2017. Some Juul users are perhaps genuinely trying to use Juul products in order to stop smoking real cigarettes, because Juul has taught them that e-c igarettes are less hazardous than actual burning ones, but hundreds of thousands of teenagers also smoke Juul today. They smoke today because Juul has enticed them into developing the habit, and now hooked them on one of the world’s most dangerously addictive drugs.

A Juul Nicotine Epidemic

Medical experts have called the e-cigarette trend a Juul-driven “youth nicotine epidemic.” Even the FDA has noticed the scope of the problem. Late in 2018, the agency said it was seeking a nationwide ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. The FDA also said then that it would sharply restrict the sales of fruity-flavored nicotine vaping cartridges. Anticipating the FDA actions, Juul announced late last year that it had halted sales of its fruit-flavored nicotine pods in retail stores, though the company said it would still sell them online. Juul also moved to shut down its Facebook FB +0% and Instagram pages in the U.S.; but the horse, of course, left the barn long ago, in full view of and with an aggressive push from Juul.

Juul acknowledges problem, denies responsibility

Juul acknowledges that some underage users (below 18 or 21, depending on their state) use Juul products, but the company has repeatedly said that, in its four years on the market, it has never marketed to underage people.

Stanford University Studies Juul Marketing

However, a physician and professor at Stanford University who studies tobacco advertising has called out Juul. Dr. Robert Jackler, co-founder of a group called Stanford Research Into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising (SRITA) – a Stanford University-affiliated program – says Juul deleted most of its social media posts over several time periods before September 2018. Dr. Jackler and his group have nevertheless maintained an archive of Juul’s deleted posts (much of it available on SRITA’s site), which includes more than 2,500 tweets, 400 Facebook and Instagram posts, and material from Juul’s website, emails, and print campaigns dating back to Juul’s June 2015 launch.

Dr. Jackler: Juul marketed to Youth

Dr. Jackler says Juul’s marketing clearly appealed to youth, most obviously from mid-2015 to 2016. Forbes magazine notes that, “His archived Juul ads are filled with attractive young models socializing and flirtatiously sharing the flash-drive shaped device, displaying behavior like dancing to club-like music and wearing clothes more characteristic of teens than mature adults.”

Early Campaigns fail to mention help against real cigarette smoking

While Juul now claims that it aims to save a billion people from actual cigarette smoking and nicotine addiction, early Juul marketing campaigns contain little or no reference to Juul being an option for those trying to quit smoking real cigarettes. Juul’s launch events and parties also often featured youth-oriented bands and free tastings, says Dr. Jackler, promoted alongside ads that made pods seem like “sweet treats” and made “juuling” (now a new verb!) seem like harmless fun.

Juul uses the FDA for marketing shield

Juul has now lobbied the FDA for approval in marketing its nicotine delivery device as a means to “help” underage people avoid the dangers of real burning cigarettes.  Meanwhile, any reasonable person can wonder if Juul’s intended targets would ever have smoked at all were it not for the company’s multi-million-dollar campaigns to hook people on Juul products.

Juul Marketing Hooks Kids on Nicotine

When no less a corporate-profits champion than Forbes writes a story called “The Disturbing Focus Of Juul’s Early Marketing Campaigns,” it’s clear something is badly amiss.

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