The New York Times this morning reports that the Massachusetts Attorney General, Maura Healey, has brought a lawsuit against vaping company Juul Labs, accusing it - with evidence - that despite its protestations to the contrary, it was targeting young nonsmokers in 2015 and 2016 and "purchased ad space in its early days on numerous youth-focused websites, including those of Nickelodeon, the Cartoon Network, Seventeen magazine and educational sites for middle school and high school students."
The Times writes that the lawsuit charges that Juul actually rejected "an initial marketing proposal by a marketing firm it had hired, Cult Collective, that would have branded it as a technology company with a target audience of adult smokers." Instead, Juul fired that agency "and hired an in-house interim art director to produce 'Vaporized,' a youth-oriented campaign, featuring beautiful models in provocative poses … The 66-page complaint includes images of young models that it claims were displayed in digital ads on websites, mobile apps and social media. It includes an extensive list of sites where Juul products were promoted that the lawsuit says were clearly aimed at teenagers and even younger children."
In its response, Juul says that it remains "focused on resetting the vapor category in the U.S. and earning the trust of society by working cooperatively with attorneys general, regulators, public health officials and other stakeholders to combat underage use and transition adult smokers from combustible cigarettes."
- KC's View:
If one thing seems clear, it is that Juul cannot be believed. They targeted kids with their ads, they took an investment from a tobacco company, and it seems completely implausible that they did not believe that they needed to hook young people early and often on their product if they were going to build out their business.
As a culture we can deal with this now. Or we can wait a few years, for the inevitable moment when all the vaping company CEOs to appear before Congress, raise their hands and admit that they lied about their marketing and lied about the health impact of their products, at which point they'll have to create a pool of money for educational purposes. But at that point, how many more people will be addicted?