JUUL Labs’ marketing practices is once again brought into a question in a new lawsuit filed by Massachusetts’ Attorney General Maura Healey last week.
JUUL Labs made headlines last year due its growing popularity among teenagers in the U.S. and its role in what former U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb called the “vaping epidemic.” How the company marketed its products in its early days has been both questioned and examined at length on the state and federal level. In the new lawsuit, questions continue to arise as Massachusetts’ attorney general alleges that some of JUUL’s early marketing campaigns specifically targeted young people and helped create the “crisis” that monopolized headlines in 2019.
The lawsuit calls out JUUL’s use of younger models in its campaigns to look cool and hip, rejecting another campaign that would have targeted older consumers looking to ditch traditional tobacco products for the e-cigarette alternative. The lawsuit also alleges that JUUL sought out celebrity influencers like Miley Cyrus, Cara Delevingne and others to appeal to a younger consumer. Healey also presented different advertisements, including those that were run on websites frequented by young consumers including teen magazines, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon. Healey goes as far as to make claims that some of JUUL’s choice for advertising platforms were aimed at preschoolers.
Healey’s lawsuit puts JUUL Labs in the middle of the uptick in teen nicotine addiction and use. Buzzfeed News provides the statistic that about 1 in 3 high school students in Massachusetts use e-cigarette products and that according to a federal survey, about 27 percent of high school seniors have vaped in the past month alone. While JUUL is not the sole e-cigarette manufacturer involved in the ongoing lawsuits, investigations and queries, it is the most popular in the U.S., at one time claiming three-fourths of the U.S. e-cigarette market. The lawsuit also calls into question JUUL’s e-mail marketing techniques, alleging that many of the emails it collected and marketed to could not be verified as belonging to an individual over the age of 18. JUUL’s use of social media and influencers, a practice called into question last year by many health advocacy groups, was also a point of criticism in the lawsuit.
JUUL denies the allegations and has addressed the marketing campaign in question before. A spokesperson has told the New York Times that the campaign in question targeted young adults in their 20s and 30s and that it was abandoned five months after it was first launched in the fall of 2015. The company’s promotion and marketing of flavored products in the past has also been questioned though in 2019 the company pulled most of its flavored pod products from the market. With a new Altria executive currently leading the company, JUUL has submitted several of its products to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to seek permission to continue to sell them lawfully in the U.S. market.
You can read a full rundown on the lawsuit here.