What’s Really Going on With Juul’s Marketing Allegations?

Here’s another complicated tale. Is Juul marketing to teenagers? Even when they say no, are their methods of marketing still eyecatching to young people?

Juul Labs Inc. is currently being sued by the state of Massachusetts; which is the fourth state to file a lawsuit against the vaping company. Massachusetts is suing with the allegation that Juul marketing their devices to young people, by purchasing ads on sites like nick.com or even in Seventeen Magazine. 

Step one in this crazy story trying to find some proof that Juul is marketing to young people. Every statement from a Juul employee says otherwise, instead claiming that the vapes are being marketed to adults as a transition from cigarettes. 

According to the Juuling Wikipedia page, Matt Myers (president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids) said the design was misleading. A 2015 Standford University study shows that adolescents’ perception of Juuls was wildly underestimated. Some even believed that they contained no nicotine, only vapor. 

So it’s true that young people are undereducated about Juuls. But let’s look at the marketing. 

Juul’s marketing themes center around relaxation, freedom, and sex-appeal. Which sounds eerily similar to themes that once (and sometimes still) surround cigarettes. The company has been under fire before for using young models and imagery all of which look incredibly attractive to adolescents. 

Clicking upstream in many many articles finds me reading the same ideas over and over again. But I want to see for myself what their advertisements look like, and I want to see for myself how they’re branding themselves. So I went to the website

As of right now, there a pop-up that requires you to verify if you are over 21 years old. There is also this large banner: 

Under a tab labeled “Our Responsibility” the site states its regulation and public policy along with a marketing and social media code. Both of which claim that Juul is not intended for youths. 

So despite the allegations of the past, Juul has made changes in their marketing to adult persons. They specify that the product is not intended and should not be used by youths. All photos or videos on the website feature people that look at least 30 or older, making it clear that it is intended for adults. The site isn’t using a person that’s 24 and looks 17, they’ve made it clear. 

But this is in the present, and everything I’m looking at is after. Allegations and complaints of Juul’s marketing started around 2016, so I tried to go back to the archive of the site around this time. Which would be before they made any changes to the site. The models could have been 24-looking-17, they may not have so plainly stated that it is an adult product. 

And I can’t access it. By 2018, the site had been changed to state things explicitly and that I can see as a public user. Anything before 2018 has been made private by the site owner. Now, this doesn’t mean they’re guilty of the allegations on the 2016 version of the site, but it looks fishy. 

Attempting to read laterally and find other opinions, I found myself on thetruth.com. TheTruth has been an anti-smoking campaign since I was a kid. With ads on MTV and TeenNick they’ve been working for decades on the decline of smoking. The Juul page isn’t very kind, but they pose legitimate statistics about juuling and vaping.  

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