In April, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it was cracking down on the makers of vaping devices, and in particular the brand Juul, for directing its advertising toward young people. Many of these products were packaged in order to look like other, kid-friendly items such as juice boxes, cereal, candy, soda, cookies, and whipped cream. Since then, the manufacturers have been redesigning their packaging, but they maintain that they never intentionally marketed their products to children. Now, the attorney general of Massachusetts is also investigating the company (Juul Labs, formerly called PAX) that makes Juul. She believes that the company has been intentionally luring teenagers to try their product and, as a result, has introduced many kids to nicotine.

The Massachusetts attorney general, Maura Healey, intends to examine how Juul audits its own website and those of other online retailers to see whether or not they are effective at preventing minors from buying its products. When you visit the Juul website, you’re confronted with a popup stating that “JUUL Labs’ mission is to eliminate cigarettes. JUUL is intended for adult smokers who want to switch from combustible cigarettes. You must be at least 21 years old to purchase products on JUUL.com.” Then you simply have to click a button that says “I am 21+ and agree to be age verified.” There doesn’t seem to be any actual verification taking place, however, at least not before you’re allowed to peruse the entire website.

Healey also contends that Juul is perfectly aware of how addictive nicotine is, and that if they can get people to start using their product young, they’ll have customers for life.

According to Juul, their original advertising campaign was aimed at adult smokers in their 20s and 30s and was intended to get them to try an alternative to traditional cigarettes. However, the packaging and names of their products were far more appealing to kids and teenagers than adults. According to a former senior manager, back when the company was first started in 2015, its leaders were perfectly aware that Juul could appeal to teenagers, although he still maintained it wasn’t their original intention. They had even seen pictures and videos on social media of teens using their product, so they knew it was happening.

WAS JUUL MARKETED TO KIDS?

The name Juul itself appears to have been chosen with younger people in mind, as the creators wanted it to evoke something beautiful (jewel-like) and even hoped that the word would catch on as a verb independent of the word “vaping.” Juul recently renamed some of their product flavors, which critics say were also targeted at young people. For example, crème brûlée is now creme, and cool cucumber is now just cucumber. The company seemingly believes that less descriptive names will appeal to older users.

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