- Juul executives and health advocates appeared at a congressional hearing this week on the e-cigarette company’s role in marketing its products to teens.
- The hearing’s testimony included claims that a Juul representative once visited a high-school classroom and told students that Juul e-cigarettes were “totally safe,” according to a memo from congressional investigators.
- The memo accused Juul of knowingly marketing products to teens by holding programs at schools and camps and recruiting teens as “Juul influencers.”
- Juul said in a statement that these marketing programs had ended and that it had begun working to fight teen vaping.
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A US congressional hearing this week revealed new information about how the Silicon Valley e-cigarette company Juul marketed its addictive vapes to children and teenagers, helping spark a youth vaping epidemic.
Juul, which is now part-owned by the cigarette company Altria, paid schools and summer camps tens of thousands of dollars to give presentations to students, according to documents made public as part of the House subcomittee hearing. The hearing’s testimony included claims that Juul representatives once told teens the company’s vapes were “totally safe.”
Researchers previously found strong evidence that Juul marketed its sleek flavored devices to teens. That contributed to a youth vaping epidemic that has left more than a million new young people hooked on e-cigarettes, according to US health officials, who’ve since launched a crackdown on vaping.
The House subcommittee heard testimony this week from Juul representatives and health experts about the $US38 billion nicotine vape developer, as politicians investigate Juul’s role in youth vaping.
Juul sponsored health and anti-smoking events to get in front of kids
Juul sponsored youth smoking-prevention and education programs – including one called a “holistic health education program” – in high schools, summer camps, and public out-of-school activities, according to documents released by congressional investigators. The documents say Juul paid thousands of dollars, and even hundreds of thousands in some cases, to sponsor events and appear in front of children as young as 8 years old.
The hearing’s testimony included claims that a Juul representative once visited a high-school classroom and told students that Juul e-cigarettes were “totally safe,” according to a memo from congressional investigators.
Juul’s strategy with its in-school programming drew comparisons to educational programs once held by big tobacco companies – a similarity Juul employees acknowledged, according to internal emails obtained by congressional investigators.
The congressional subcommittee also called out Juul’s influencer program, which included more than 28,000 “social media buzzmakers,” as a key tool in marketing products to teens.
“The donations and two student presentations we made were part of our short-lived Education and Youth Prevention Program which was ended in September 2018 after its purpose – to educate youth on the dangers of nicotine addiction – was clearly misconstrued,” Juul said in a statement.
The company says it’s now working to fight youth vaping.
Researchers at Stanford concluded last year that Juul’s marketing campaign was “patently youth-oriented,” thanks to a combination of launch parties, social-media blitzes, and vape giveaways. Another study showed that Juul’s focus on placing ads across YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram – platforms full of teens and young adults – was successful in driving the company’s sales growth.
Juul says its products are for adults, and are better than tobacco
Juul says that its products are designed to help adult smokers ween off cigarettes and turn to a healthier tobacco alternative and that the company does not target teens with its advertising material.
Public-health experts, however, say Juul targeted teens online by evoking feelings of “relaxation, freedom, and sex appeal,” as Business Insider has previously reported. According to several studies, young people who vape may be as much as seven times as likely to smoke regular cigarettes as teens who have never tried an e-cigarette.
Congressional representatives aren’t the only ones investigating Juul’s marketing efforts. The Food and Drug Administration has also been investigating the company.