I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t had much experience with Juuls, aside from the occasional empty pod in the stadium parking lot or the sickly-sweet smell of mango clouding the bathroom air. But it’s hardly a secret that vaping is a serious issue at CHS, as well as in most high schools across the nation.
It’s gotten to the point that U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has gotten involved, investigating Juul Labs and related companies for their involvement in the youth vaping epidemic — an investigation that prompted Juul Labs to restrict the purchase of its flavored pods to its website just over a month ago. In accordance with an FDA mandate issued in September requiring all vaping companies to submit a detailed plan to reduce youth vaping, Juul Labs also announced they would be halting their promotions on social media.
At first, it seems like an appreciable effort by Juul Labs to remedy an unforeseen effect of their product (namely, youth vaping). But if you ask me, Juul Labs knew exactly what they were doing when they first initiated the epidemic, and anything they do now will be too little, too late.
First, let’s take a look at the marketing of the Juul: although the Juul was technically released in 2015 as a safer alternative for habitual smokers, the promotional campaigns that accompanied its release presented a very different target audience. The 2015 campaign, which has since been abandoned for a more sober initiative, featured bright colors and contemporary designs, as well as young, fashionable models proudly brandishing their Juul. In addition, the company released innovative flavors with unnecessarily catchy names such as “cool cucumber,” “crème brûlée” and “tutti frutti.” Taken in account with Juul Lab’s active social media presence at the time, I really don’t see how this campaign could have been designed to promote to any age groups besides teenagers. It certainly doesn’t seem like the company was trying particularly hard to reach it’s supposed target audience of adult smokers, who most likely would have responded better to a more serious, earnest campaign.
Furthermore, Juul Lab’s plans to reduce social media activity and withdraw flavored pods from brick-and-mortar stores are not going to do anything now. Juuling has become so popular among teenagers that many actively feature it on their personal social medias, allowing its popularity to spread through word-of-mouth. Juul Labs may be deleting its accounts and posts, but it won’t need them to maintain a strong presence on social media because teenagers will do it for them. In addition, teenagers can easily obtain flavored pods from the website by finding someone over 21 willing to purchase the pods and re-sell them. It’s a method many youth already use, so it’s hard to believe that the new regulations will put a meaningful dent in the vaping epidemic.
In the end, none of Juul Lab’s plans will have a significant impact — really, it just seems that the company announced these intentions as a half-hearted attempt to avoid total shut-down by the FDA during its investigation. Yet it is clear that from the beginning Juul Labs intended to market to those under 18, an unacceptable action that should face harsh consequences from the FDA.