Well the Doc opened up the old mailbag today and here’s what poured out.
Dear Dr. Ads,
There I was, minding my own business and perusing the Weekend Wall Street Journal (the WSJ set doesn’t read, it peruses – just ask Peggy Noonan), when I came across this piece by Jennifer Maloney, Andrew Scurria, and Alex Harring about “a federal appeals court [that] granted Juul Labs Inc. a temporary stay of the Food and Drug Administration’s order for the vaping company to pull its e-cigarettes off the U.S. market.”
Here’s the part that jumped out at me.
Regulators and lawmakers have connected Juul’s fruity flavors, hip marketing and USB-like vaporizer to a surge of underage vaping in the U.S. in 2018 and 2019. Juul has said it never targeted teens. It halted most of its U.S. advertising and stopped selling sweet and fruity flavors in 2019, part of an effort to repair its relationship with regulators, lawmakers and the public.
Is that true, Doc – Juul never targeted teens? Sounds kind of vaporous to me.
It’s more accurate to say Juul always targeted teens, as this New York Times piece by Steven Kurutz noted.
When Juuls were first sold in 2015, the brand surged in popularity, partly on the strength of a vibrant ad campaign that showed young people smiling, laughing and striking poses beneath the word “Vaporized.”
By 2018, Juul had grown so popular that the brand name became a verb, with teens furtively “juuling” in high school classrooms and hallways. That same year, Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris, agreed to pay $13 billion for a 35 percent stake in Juul Labs.
This 2020 piece by Terry Turner at Drugwatch was even more damning.
HOW JUUL CREATED A TEEN VAPING EPIDEMIC
Throughout the summer of 2019, as congressional staffers plowed through 55,000 documents Juul Labs had previously never made public, a picture emerged of a carefully planned effort to expose American kids to one of the world’s most addictive substances.
The documents revealed a perfect storm of stealth marketing, sleek design and high nicotine doses that Juul Labs seemingly engineered to slip under adults’ radar, buying time to addict kids to the company’s vaping products . . .
Congressional investigators found Juul Labs “deployed a sophisticated program” paying schools as much as $10,000 each to let company representatives deliver its message directly to children. In at least one presentation, without teachers or parents present, a company representative showed kids how to use a Juul e-cigarette. Other evidence showed that Juul Labs also targeted preteen kids through summer camps and out-of-school programs.
Overall, the Drugwatch piece noted, “Juul Labs’ internal documents and statements by its founders reveal the e-cigarette manufacturer lifted trade secrets from Big Tobacco to market its highly addictive vaping products to youths as young as 8. The company’s deliberate marketing plan proved successful, doubling the size of the U.S. vaping market and dominating competitors in just three years.”
Juul controlled over 75% of the e-cigarette market by then and was red hot among teens, as this 2019 Time magazine video detailed.
Here’s just a sample of the news reports that have tracked Juul’s marketing to kids over the past several years.
• The vape company Juul said it doesn’t target teens. Its early ads tell a different story.
• Juul Bought Ads Appearing on Cartoon Network and Other Youth Sites, Suit Claims
• Juul, accused of marketing to teens, settles vaping case for $40m
Last week, Insider News posted this deep dive into the rise and fall (TBD) of Juul.
• Youth cigarette smoking rates dropped from 18% in 2005 to 10.8% in 2015
• Thanks to Juul’s relentless targeting of teens on social media, its U.S. market share went from under 5% in 2016 to 29% in 2017 to 75% in 2018
• The FDA said whoa
• Juul phased out its social media accounts
That last, of course, meant nothing: Teenage Juulers kept the social media machine whirring quite nicely all by themselves.
Regardless, why does the FDA now feel comfortable canceling Juul while greenlighting VUSE and NJOY e-cigs?
Here’s the Doc’s diagnosis: During the past few years, Juul’s teen targeting has gone over like the metric system with the American public. Maybe that’s part of the FDA’s conclusion that Juul is the black hat and VUSE and NJOY are the white hats in terms of protecting the public health.
Your smoke and mirrors go here.