Firm News

Did Juul Secretly Market to Teens?

September 27, 2018

The new Silicon Valley-backed company is raising controversy

Just as the teen smoking epidemic seemingly came to an end, Juul skyrocketed into the hands of young adults. The company claims to have intended for the Juul to help adults quit smoking, so why are more and more high schoolers and college students carrying this flashdrive-sized device everywhere they go?

It’s Cool

Everything about the Juul’s marketing campaigns screamed “only cool kids use it!” The New York Times noted that even the names of the flavored “pods” targeted a younger audience. The nicotine pods boast titles such as “cool cucumber” and “crème brulee.” The company has slightly altered these titles since they launched in 2015, in attempts to cover up their marketing strategies now that they are under fire. Along with the trendy title names, Juul also relied solely on social media to market itself. The company encouraged advertising through edgy Instagram posts and tweets, even offering a Juul influencer program. Relying on social media advertising meant that Juul ads would be less regulated and more visible to young adults, Business Insider points out.

It’s Available

If you walk onto any college campus in America, you’re bound to see at least one student blowing a cloud of smoke into the air as they book it to their afternoon class. Every corner store sells Juuls as well as replacement pods for around $20, and it is advertised in big posters plastered in the windows. As long as you look 18 and have a source of income, you can become an avid ‘juuler.’ Despite warnings on Juul’s website stating that nicotine is an addictive chemical, the store locator page displays many convenient locations to purchase the pods.

It’s Addicting

There’s a reason why Juul is so popular and appealing to young people: nicotine salts. As The Verge noted:

“Juuls provide a nicotine hit that’s much more like smoking a cigarette than other e-cigs, and it’s not really a secret why: the company is very proud of its patented JuulSalts approach to nicotine delivery. Those JuulSalts are compounds called nicotine salts, which also form in the heat-dried tobacco leaves used to make most-cigarettes.”

Between the company’s social media cache and their “refer a smoker” program that rewards those who get their friends to switch, nicotine addiction is the one of its strongest marketing tools. This Silicon Valley start-up has secured a new generation of nicotine addicts just as cigarette smoking rates began to decline.

Despite Juul’s incredible popularity, many are catching on to the company’s affinity for young users. The FDA recently set new rules effectively banning e-cigarette companies from entering the market unless they can prove within 60 days that they can keep them out of the hands of minors. However, the Administration thusfar has had little success in enforcing these rules. Only time will tell how regulation will affect Juulers, but for now the company shows no signs of slowing their marketing practices.

Jackie Delacerda is an Intern at Bond Moroch.