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Juul under fire for its role in youth vaping epidemic

Rates of teen vaping in the US rose 9.5% to 37.3% in 2017-2018, leading to nicotine addiction in youth being viewed as a public health crisis – and Juul is taking a lot of the blame.

Silicon Valley start-up Juul boasts a share of more than three-quarters of the e-cigarettte market in the US. Their product is an electronic vaping device which is designed to appear sleek and stylish – similar to an iPhone.

Despite claiming to exist to help adult smokers (aged 35 and over) quit smoking, many argue that they have been targeting young people from their inception.

A marketing analysis performed by researchers at Stanford found that Juul’s marketing campaign was heavily youth-oriented between 2015 and 2018. Researchers analysed thousands of advertisements, emails and Instagram posts and declared that “JUUL’s mission statement…and their repeated assertion that their product is meant for “adult smokers only” has not been congruent with its marketing practices over its first 3 years.”

Some suggest that the design and flavour options – such as crème brûlée and mango –  have been targeted to young people rather than older adults. Experts also point to the strong similarities between Juul’s advertising and tobacco advertising.

Juul’s product launch in 2015 involved attractive young people offering free samples at music and movie events populated by youth, further suggesting that their products were not genuinely aimed at the over 35 bracket.

The FDA is currently trying to restrict the selling of flavoured vaping devices both online and in stores in an attempt to reduce youth sales.

Yet vaping device sales are predicted to rise, with tobacco companies such as Kev’s Vape or Altria beginning to invest in e-cigarette businesses such as Juul in an attempt to expand their product range.

Juul has also recently been under fire legally after one of its representatives allegedly told a classroom of ninth-graders that Juul’s e-cigarettes were “totally safe”, despite their nicotine content.