SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — Lawsuits are mounting against e-cigarette company Juul and now federal investigators are taking a hard look at the company’s marketing practices.
The allegation is that Juul has intentionally targeted underage user with their advertisements, and using soical media influencers to market to teens and get them hooked. The Federal Trade Commission is investigating, according to the Wall Street Journal. Investigators want to know how much Juul is to blame for fueling what the Drug Enforcement Administration calls the teen vaping epidemic.
Roughly one in five high school students have tried vaping last year and according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, seven out of ten teenagers are exposed to e-cigarettes through ads.
“I see them a lot on, like, YouTube’s that’s showing on videos for teenagers, so it’s really targeting us in my opinion,” said student Leslie Fuentes.
The FTC is looking at a set of Juul ads that are flashy and bright; with younger users prominently pictured – which some believe are directly aimed at kids.
“It totally is, absolutely,” said Debbie, parent who asked to be identified only by her first name. She said she feels vaping ads are a flashback from the past, a page out of the tobacco industry’s playbook. “We grew up where smoking was advertised and now everyone is seeing the after effect,” she added.
Juul would not comment on the specific investigation but the company says it fully cooperates and is transparent with any government agency.
In a statement sent to KPIX 5, Juul said, “We regret that the campaign was executed in a way that was perceived as appealing to minors. To avoid any misconceptions, we changed our approach to advertising in a way that offers no room for misinterpretation about the mission of our company or our intended customers.”
On CBS This Morning, Juul CEO Kevin Burns directly addressed the company’s marketing goals. “I don’t think our campaign was ever targeted to kids,” said Burns. “We don’t need to target youth to grow our business, to be successful, and fulfill our mission.”
Along with changing their ads, Juul has taken other steps to deter teens from vaping. Most of their flavored products are no longer in stores and are only sold online where there is a strict age verification system.