Juul Labs has come under fire for its e-cigarette marketing practices which may have targeted and encouraged sales to minors. A number of lawsuits have been filed against Juul Labs by parents of teens and those who have become addicted to nicotine because of Juul deceptive marketing practices.
Virtually any adult or child in the U.S. knows those smoking cigarettes is bad for your health, but not everyone knows about the dangers of e-cigarettes like those made by Juul. Many people who started smoking e-cigarettes did so, believing that vaping was safer and not as addictive as smoking regular cigarettes.
Multiple reports have emerged in the U.S. regarding hundreds of lung illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths that have been linked to e-cigarette use or “vaping”. This is in addition to the dangers of addiction which have not been fully recognized. As Juul products account for about 80% of the sales of e-cigarettes, Juul is also the subject of a number of FDA warnings and criticism regarding their marketing programs which may have targeted teens and young adults.
E-cigarettes Marketed as Safer
It is well-known that cigarette smoking can increase blood pressure, increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and lung disorders. It also contributes to the development of virtually every type of cancer known to man and is cited as a cause in 80-90% of all lung cancer cases. Because of these health risks, companies have long been on the search for an alternative to cigarettes which offer the “benefits” of smoking without all the health risks.
Smoking e-cigarettes or “vaping” has been believed by some to fill this need. E-cigarette use has become a major way for people to get their nicotine fix without the unpleasantness of smoking tobacco cigarettes. Juul Labs may have falsely promoted their products as safer and less addicting in the way that their marketing programs were constructed and particularly aimed at young Americans.
Several lawsuits have been filed against Juul, alleging the devices caused users to become addicted to nicotine without knowing it was possible. One of the lawsuits was filed by parents who claim their 15-year old son is now addicted to the nicotine from using a Juul device and is similar to other lawsuit claims. The Attorney General in the State of Massachusetts has opened an investigation into marketing practices of Juul to determine if they are targeting minors, and regulators in other regions have begun similar inquiries.
Juul was also the subject of a recent FDA warning due to their improper marketing practices which targeted teens and youngsters. The company reportedly attempted to correct these problems by conducting education programs, supposedly warning young people about the dangers of vaping but efforts may have actually led to increases in vaping rates amongst teens and minors.
The massive and growing popularity of vaping is why Juul, an e-cigarette company was founded in 2017. Juul has quickly overtaken much of the vape market, and now accounts for about 80% of the market, perhaps because the company has spent more money on marketing as an alternative to cigarettes than other companies which manufacture vaping devices.
Juul vaping devices are reportedly intended for adults but they have become highly popular with teens and high school students. The devices are so popular that the term “juuling” has been coined to describe smoking an e-cigarette. A 2017 CDC study raised concerns that vaping may become this generation’s smoking problem as high school and middle school students are now vaping more often than they smoke regular cigarettes.
The problems have only become more prevalent as reports of illness, hospitalizations and even deaths have emerged in the media. Many of the victims have been underage minors who believed their Juul devices and e-cigarettes were not dangerous and would not lead to nicotine addiction.
Why is Juul So Popular?
Juul Labs, which makes Juul e-cigarettes already controls about 80 percent of the vaping market and is valued at more than $15 billion. The company states that they began with the intention of helping adult smokers to stop using cigarettes, but their advertising does not seem to agree.
Juul devices are small, convenient and easy to carry and easy to use. Though Juul e-cigarettes don’t contain tobacco, a small insertable pod provides a nicotine hit which is just as addictive as the nicotine in cigarettes and other nicotine products.
The refill cartridges or pods used in Juul devices come in an array of flavors like fruit medley, crème Brulee, cool cucumber, cool mint, and mango. They are said to be “less harsh” than other e-cigarettes and the device itself is attractively decorated, all of which may make them more attractive to kids.
Juul marketing campaigns also appear to have been targeted towards young adults and teenagers, by virtue of their social media use and appearance of the ads. The company has been subject to more than one FDA warning and faces sanction in a number of states which have banned or are considering banning e-cigarette sales altogether.
Juul has responded by insisting that sales of their e-cigarette products should not be allowed to those under 21 years of age but for many teens and other youngsters, the changes may come too late. Many young adults and teens may already be addicted to the nicotine in Juul vape products and e-cigarettes.
Juul Labs is already facing multiple lawsuits in California, New York and other locations for nicotine addiction and lung injuries. Juul lawsuits claim that Juul’s early marketing campaigns targeted children, that nicotine levels aren’t clearly stated, that Juul’s use of social media further encourages teens and that there weren’t enough safeguards to prevent minors from purchasing the products.
Specifically, lawsuits have cited:
- Juul “VAPORIZED” campaign which featured young people, encouraging them to buy Juul devices
- Juul flavored nicotine pods encourage minors to begin vaping because of the pleasant taste
- Juul pods contain the same amount of nicotine as in one pack of cigarettes, making them more addictive than advertising suggests
- A study showing Juul employs social media influencers to boost the device’s popularity amongst teens
- A lack of safeguards to prevent those under 21 from purchasing the devices
California Lawsuits – One lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California and one lawsuit filed in San Francisco Superior Court allege that Juul products were deceptively marketed as safe, despite being more addictive than regular cigarettes. Filers claim that the products were purchased to help quit smoking but are now addicted to Juul.
New York Lawsuit – One lawsuit filed by the parents of a 15-year old boy who is said to be addicted to nicotine after using Juul devices. The nicotine addiction has reportedly caused social and behavioral issues, school troubles and disciplinary issues as he seeks to continue “juuling” despite consequences administered at home and school.
Lawsuits in other states are possible and several federal, state and local agencies are also considering legal action.
Traditional cigarettes and tobacco products, along with over-the-counter forms of smoking cessation products which contain nicotine are well-regulated by the FDA and by state organizations. E-cigarettes have not yet fallen under the same umbrella, though recent events are increasing the possibility of comprehensive action.
E-Cigarettes were not regulated at all until 2016 when the Food and Drug Administration began requiring e-cigarette manufacturers begin submitting premarket applications in order to sell nicotine products. The deadline for application submission was initially set for 2018, but the date was pushed forward to 2022.
In April of 2018, the FDA said that they were planning on cracking down on illegal sales of Juul to minors. The FDA demanded that Juul turn over research which they claim shows the devices are less effective. In response, Juul stated that they were enacting a campaign to prevent minors from obtaining Juul products and supported raising the vaping age to 21.
Juul’s educational campaign was apparently ineffective and may have had the opposite effect, actually increasing the risk of underage vaping. In September of 2018, letters were sent by the FDA to Juul and other manufacturers and a surprise inspection of Juul manufacturing was conducted resulting in the seizure of thousands of documents related to marketing programs.
In November of 2018, Juul stated that it would stop selling the mango, fruit, crème and cucumber flavors and in December, big tobacco company R. J. Reynolds acquired 35% of the company. Juul subsequently shut down their Facebook and Instagram accounts.
A number of groups have sued the FDA due to inaction regarding e-cigarettes and the Massachusetts Attorney General stated that they would be launching an investigation into Juul marketing practices. Other state attorney generals have reported similar considerations.
Juul’s problems may still be much bigger as more reports of injuries, hospitalizations and deaths related to vaping continue to emerge. As the largest manufacturer of e-cigarette products and with an estimated 80% of the market share, more parents of teens and young adults who were sickened or became addicted to Juul e-cigarettes may be filing lawsuits.
Notwithstanding claims relating to this product, the drug/medical device remains approved by the U.S. FDA.