No more models: Juul vaping exec revamps advertising policy to pacify FDA

The vaping industry has a perception problem, and the popularity of juul e-cigarettes may be one of the most significant contributing factors.  These miniaturized, streamlined vaping devices now boast over 60 percent of the market share, and antismoking lobbyists often blame its popularity among teenagers for its consistent uptick in trend.  Company executives still maintain that their products were never intended to appeal to minors, but a recent press release is signifying a new change in marketing strategies that seems specifically targeted to help relieve tensions between the American vaping industry and the FDA.

"While JUUL already has a strict marketing code, we want to take it one step further by implementing an industry-leading policy eliminating all social media posts featuring models and instead focus our social media on sharing stories about adult smokers who have successfully switched to JUUL."
-  CEO Kevin Burns of JUUL Labs via PR News Wire

In the past, many of Juul’s marketing strategies involved brightly colored imagery featuring professional models enjoying a Juul e-cig – models who often appeared to be quite young or college-aged students.  The perception that the e-cigarette manufacturer was intentionally targeting teens through its advertisements only bolsters recent claims by the FDA that the use of “kid-appealing” marketing practices throughout the entire vaping industry should be abolished.  In March of 2018, FDA Commissioner even launched an official 90-day probe requesting public input into the possibility of a nationwide flavor ban.  The probe has since been extended by an additional 30-days with a drop-dead date to submit comments of July 16, 2018. 

Related Article:  FDA Chief extends flavor ban probe by 30-days amid crushing defeat of Prop E

Why do children find Juuls so appealing?  Many surveys suggest that high schoolers in particular find these vaping devices are far easier to hide from teachers and parents because of their unique design.  At first glance, they look very much like a small USB thumb drive and can be easily misidentified by non-vapers and non-smokers alike.   Other reports further claim that a significant majority of juuling teens are not even daily tobacco users.  They simply juul because it is “cool” or because they like the extensive flavor options of e-liquid “pods” used in juuling. 

Juul is targeting social media, print, and radio ads for new marketing strategies

The June 14 announcement also claims that the Juul organization will be spending $30 million over the next three years on marketing research and youth prevention programs.  Meanwhile, the company’s “no models” campaign is already kicking into high gear.  An internal team is currently in the midst of identifying and scrubbing inappropriate content from the company’s Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, sites in an attempt to eliminate any advertisement that appears to endorse or solicit underage vaping.

"We also are having success in proactively working with social media platforms to remove posts, pages and unauthorized offers to sell product targeted at underage accounts. We believe we can both serve the 38 million smokers in the U.S. and work together to combat underage use - these are not mutually exclusive missions."
- CEO Kevin Burns of JUUL Labs


The Juul company insists that it never intentionally or deliberately targeted teens, but it was simply caught off-guard by the product’s rapid rise to popularity among young people and failed to react expeditiously. 

"I think it's a combination of, the company was very small and the product took off very fast. And we had to scale everything in the company extremely quickly. And we're still, frankly, working on it today.  There is more we can do. And there's more we need to do." 
-  Chief Administrative Office Ashley Gould via CBS News

Another area of criticism where Juul gets a lot of notoriety is in its choices and abundance of e-liquid flavors like berry and mango. The e-juice pods that juulers plug into the devices are often marketed using brightly colored packaging like that of conventional kid-friendly cereals, juice boxes, and candies.   Company executives remain adamant that adults trying to quit smoking like lots of sweet-tasting e-liquid flavors appealing, too.  The change in marketing practices is only meant to curb a perceived rise in teen vaping without jeopardizing the public health of adult smokers-turned-vapers at the same time. 

Related Article: FDA flavor ban will only increase Big Tobacco sales, says Yale Economist

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