Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of clay Magazine or TPS.
In 2003, a Chinese pharmacist named Hon Lik created the first electronic cigarette (or e-cigarette). By 2006, e-cigarettes were being imported into the United States. Now, only 13 years after its commercialization, an estimated 3.6 million American teens and 41 million adults worldwide vape.
Due to its fairly recent popularization, these numbers have been growing exponentially since 2011. According to the World Health Organization, there will be an estimated 55 million vapers two years from now. This begs the question, what is vaping and why is it so popular?
Vaping is simply smoking, but in vapor form. There are three main parts to a vape: A battery, an atomizer, and a tank. The battery is what powers the atomizer, which in turn heats and vaporizes the nicotine-rich liquid. The tank (or cartridge if the device is disposable) is what holds the liquid or “juice.” Many do not realize this, but most Juul vape cartridges have the same amount of nicotine as one to two packs of cigarettes.
Juul is the biggest company in the e-cigarette industry. Their mission is to “improve the lives of one billion adult smokers by eliminating cigarettes.” But of course Juul would want to eliminate cigarettes so they could be replaced with Juuls. Since Juul pods contain nicotine, they are just as dangerous and addictive as traditional cigarettes.
Exactly how vaping became so popular is a bit foggy. But what is clear is that the 3.6 million American teenagers mentioned earlier make up a large portion of vape product consumers. Juul has formally denied marketing their products to teenagers and Juul Labs CEO, Kevin Burns, has said, “It’s not intended for them. I hope there was nothing that we did that made it appealing to them.” However, a few things still do not match up.
The picture above was part of a Juul marketing campaign back in 2015. With the bright colors and young model, this is an ad that seems to be directed at young people. But despite speculations, this is not absolute, definitive proof that Juul is marketing to teenagers.
Their deleted social media posts, on the other hand, are evidence. Stanford Research into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising (SRITA) reported that in November 2018, Juul deleted many of their past social media posts that were aimed at youth. Since then, they have only run ads featuring noticeably older people and their testimonials on how Juul products have helped them to switch from traditional cigarettes. Early Juul ads also made little mention of Juul as a way to stop smoking cigarettes. The focus was on how Juuling was fun and cool, which is a surefire way to get youth hooked. Additionally, Juul manufactures and sells pods that are flavored like mint, blueberry, and coffee. If Juul isn’t marketing to youth, why would they sell flavored products? The adult smokers they claim to want to help have been smoking menthol-flavored cigarettes with no problem.
As of September 9th, Juul is under investigation by the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations for marketing its products as safer than traditional cigarettes, when in reality, they contain as much nicotine as one to two packs of cigarettes. Juul is also being investigated by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) for possible marketing to teenagers. Additionally, their connection to Altria, one of the world’s largest tobacco producers and marketers, is also under scrutiny.
Because of these investigations, it seems that Juul’s unchecked reign on the e-cigarette market may soon come to an end. As of September 26, the CDC has officially reported nine deaths and 530 cases of illnesses in the U.S. and its Territories. The exact cause of these illnesses is unknown, but the sudden onset is troubling.
Despite this, Juul is still allowed to run ads on television (while cigarette companies are banned from doing so) and have gotten away with marketing their products as safer than cigarettes. With two investigations of Juul’s business practices ongoing at the federal level, hopefully the smoke will clear and the truth will come out. But for now, Juul is not in the business of helping people. They are simply in business.
https://www.forbes.com/sites/kathleenchaykowski/2018/11/16/the-disturbing-focus-of-juuls-early-marketing-campaigns/#6294663314f9 – 3rd image source
https://www.vaporfi.com/learn/e-cigarette-parts.html – 2nd image source
https://www.bbc.com/news/business-44295336 – # people vaping
https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2019/09/09/fda-bashes-juul-illegally-marketing-vaping-products-less-harmful-than-cigarettes/ – Juul under investigation for “safer” claim
https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/severe-lung-disease.html – CDC report
https://rulings.cbp.gov/search?term=m85579&collection=ALL&sortBy=RELEVANCE&pageSize=30&page=1 – US Customs Record of Vape
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/sep/15/how-safe-is-vaping-e-cigarettes-deaths-bans – Chemical mixing
https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2019/9/3/20847219/vaping-health-risks-2019-lung-damage-death – Health risks
http://tobacco.stanford.edu/tobacco_main/publications/JUUL_Marketing_Stanford.pdf – Stanford research
https://www.vapinplus.com/blog-4-tips-for-large-vape-clouds/ – Cover image
https://www.wsj.com/articles/juuls-marketing-practices-under-investigation-by-ftc-11567096073 – Juul under investigation for marketing to teens