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- A new lawsuit says, in 2015, Juul advertised on Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Seventeen Magazine and College Confidential, a forum for teens to talk about college rankings and SAT scores.
- Juul cofounder James Monsees said selling to kids was “antithetical to the company’s mission.”
- The lawsuit cites internal documents, saying Juul’s board of directors were concerned that models in the campaign looked too young
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A new lawsuit brought against e-cigarette company Juul says the company advertised on children’s channels Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network.
The details, part of a 66-page lawsuit filed by the Massachusetts attorney general on Wednesday, chalk with Juul’s long-held defense that advertising to children is “antithetical to the company’s mission.”
At a press conference announcing the lawsuit, Attorney General Maura Healey said Juul’s 2015 launch campaign, Vaporized, “started it all,” referring to the outbreak of vaping-related lung illnesses across the US, which has affected 2,758 people, causing 64 deaths, according to the CDC.
The colorful campaign, created with Canadian marketing agency Cult Collective, featured 10 models that looked young enough to worry Juul employees, the lawsuit said.
“Its board of directors acknowledged concern that models photographed for the Vaporized Campaign appeared to be too young,” singling out two of models in particular, according to the lawsuit, citing internal documents.
“Just look at some of these photos here today,” Healey said to the room of reporters, with photos from Juul’s 2015 campaign behind her. “Look at the people who are using these products. See, this isn’t about getting adults to stop smoking cigarettes, it’s about getting young people to start vaping.”
According to the lawsuit, the first pitch Cult Collective brought to Juul would have targeted an older audience, contrasting the futuristic-looking vapes with old-fashioned telephones and joysticks.
Juul rejected that in favor of an ad that seemed designed to appeal to a younger demographic that looked like “New York trendsetters who embody the Juul brand and speak to millennial consumers,” according to the lawsuit.
Ad campaign creator Stephen Baillie’s mood boards were “composed of pictures of fashionable young people, frequently in a sexually provocative context,” according to page 10 of the lawsuit.
Banner ads were featured on sites like nick.com, seventeen.com, cartoonnetwork.com, and collegeconfidential.com, a forum where kids discussed SAT applications and college rankings, as well as Times Square billboards.
Juul shipped vaping cartridges to college dorms, and partnered with teen-favorite actors like Miley Cyrus and Robert Pattinson
The lawsuit comes a little over six months after Juul executives were called into a congressional hearing to explain why the company had given talks at high schools, encouraging teen vaping.
In the filing, lawyers for the state of Massachussets say Juul also shipped vaping cartridges to college dormitories, sold to users who bought products with their student email addresses ending in .edu, and advised younger users on how they could skirt their state’s age requirements, suggesting they have their products shipped to a place where the age requirement for nicotine was 18 and not 21. In Massachusetts there were more 1,200 Juul accounts created with school emails.
- EVA HAMBACH/AFP/Getty Images
“The legal age to purchase nicotine products in Milton, Mass. is 21 years old and above,” Don from the Juul Care Team wrote a buyer who was under 21. “If you have friends or relatives in Quincy, Mass., you may use their address as a shipping address for your order.”
Juul also partnered with actresses who appealed to children: Miley Cyrus; Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, who garnered a global fanbase of kids and teens starring in Twilight from 2008 to 2012; as well as Tavi Gevinson, founder of the critically-acclaimed Rookie Mag, who was 19 at the time. Rolling Stone had called Gevinson “possibly the most influential 18-year-old in America” a year prior.
A recent study found 88% of teens who vape prefer Juul
The San Francisco startup’s cofounder, James Monsees, told the New York Times that selling to kids was “antithetical to the company’s mission.”
However, a study of over 4,000 New Jersey high school students, published Wednesday in the journal JAMA, found that 88% of them used Juul as their brand of choice.
Another one found that more than half of teens who vape use Juul, and a Stanford Research white paper found Juul’s sales tactics echoed the tobacco playbook, with a goal of seeming cool and marketing to the youth.
In recent months, due to a presidential mandate, Juul has stopped selling the flavored versions of its e-cigarettes.