Remember those commercials from the Truth campaign? The one who’s mission, when I was a kid, was to end cigarette smoking and teens? That one. Late in my adolescence, there was a shift from cigarettes to e-cigarettes and vapes. Now when I find myself on TeenNick late at night, reminiscing about shows like Drake and Josh, I see these new Truth commercials. They’re littered with facts that show the horrors of vaping. Also, am I the only one who’s high school also had to ban vapes and Juuls? I remember it being a huge problem my senior year and I’m sure it’s gotten worse since.
I’ve never liked cigarettes and never saw the appeal of Juuls. When I saw this headline on CNN, I may have cheered a little from my side of the screen.
The article goes on to explain that Massachusetts is suing Juul for early marketing toward young people. Their early marketing campaign features young-looking models posing with the vape with the slogan “Vaporized”. The campaign focuses on showing cool people using this new sleek and futuristic looking vape.
As the headline reads, the state is also alleging that Juul used the campaign with the intention of running it on children’s sites. This includes things like nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and even websites aimed at helping with schoolwork.
That’s a really scary and intense thing to say, right? It leads me to wonder, did Juul advertise on children’s websites?
The best place to start is with a fact check. Go back to our fact-checking places and see what other’s have said before. I checked Snopes, PolitiFact, FactCheck, and nothing. Nothing that talks about Juul and children’s websites. So I decided to see what Wikipedia had to say, and the fact-checking still is slim.
According to the page, a Juul spokeswoman announced the company had it’s “own patrol of retailers who advertise to youths or who do not enforce age requirements”. Also, it was reported that a high school student heard a Juul spokesperson tell students that their products are safe.
While these don’t prove advertising on children’s websites, there is a lack of regulating where advertising is happening. It sounds like it is totally possible for a Juul ad to pop up on one of these sites. And some spokespeople are miseducating young people about the product, which is equally as dangerous.
This isn’t satisfying though. The information here, while a little alarming, doesn’t make me feel like I’ve gotten to the meat of what’s going on. So I decided to work my way upstream. All hyperlinks lead to other CNN articles that detail related lawsuits against Juul. I decided to look outside the scope of CNN and found this New York Post article that provided a long list of alleged websites:
The one that surprises me the most is Nick Jr. A website aimed at lower elementary-aged children. It’s abhorrent to read this.
In an Ars Technica article, the list expands including more educational websites. The article expands in areas that other reports have lacked. It includes a quote from the lawsuit that a consumer was given advice on how to avoid age restrictions on purchase orders. The article event links to a copy of the lawsuit. Pages 16-20 detail all claims made by Massachusetts regarding the purchasing of advertising space on children’s websites.
These sources have similar political standings, and I wanted to look at one that was on the other side of the fence, so to say. One that I found was from the Washington Times, which creates an equally exciting story. They cite Attorney General Maura Healey who passionately speaks against Juul,
“This isn’t about getting adults to stop smoking cigarettes, it’s about getting young people to start vaping.”
Reports from all sides are equally passionate. To allegedly use advertising space to lure in children and teens is an idea that’s difficult to grapple with. The list of websites makes my head spin to look at.
It’s difficult to asses the Truthometer of this. Did Juul advertise on children’s websites? Well, Wikipedia shows that there was interaction between young people and Juul. Articles from New York Post and Ars Technica provide a growing list of websites and a link to the actual pages submitted by Massachusetts. And there’s no disparency between the right or left in covering this story. What’s frustrating is that I’ve yet to find tangible proof, a screenshot of any website, with a Juul ad.
Does that make me question the validity of this claim? No. Because what has been proven is that Juul chose its initial ad campaign to feature “cool” and “hip” young people using the device as a ploy to lure other young people. Only after lawsuit after lawsuit, claim after claim, has Juul made the necessary changes in attempt to reverse what they started. They could have marketed themselves as a device to help quick cigarettes, but they saw an opportunity to take advantage of a generation that had no interest in smoking.