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New lawsuit claims JUUL targeted teens with marketing on television and online

Regulators say the company posted ads on Nickelodeon and websites targeted at young girls

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Photo (c) Josie Desmarais - Getty Images
Massachusetts’ Attorney General (AG) Maura Healey has filed a lawsuit against the e-cigarette company JUUL for its role in creating what she calls a “youth vaping epidemic,” and for its marketing ploys intended to lure youth to e-smoking.

The lawsuit demands that JUUL pay for all costs associated with Massachusetts's efforts in  countering the “public health crisis” that’s touched more than half of the state’s adolescents.

“JUUL, more than any other company, bears responsibility for the fact that millions of young people nationwide are now addicted to e-cigarettes, reversing decades of progress in combating underage tobacco and nicotine use and addiction,” Healey wrote in the complaint.

Going for the “cool crowd”

The new lawsuit is an interesting window into JUUL’s marketing plan. The strategy appears to be built around building awareness by targeting the “cool crowd” -- young people who are considered “fashionable, urban with a vibrant life,” and “enjoy[ed] going out to shows and events.” That includes a crowd, the AG points out, that’s not even of legal age to buy e-cigarettes. 

The complaint goes on to point out that JUUL paid little or no attention to how old the people it was marketing to actually were. Specifically, JUUL...

  • Sold the under-18 market its product “even when (the youth) supplied dates of birth to JUUL that established they were younger than the local minimum legal sales age.” 

  • Ignored the age verification tools it put in place when distributing marketing materials, according to the attorney general’s allegations. 

“Approximately 40,000 email addresses on JUUL’s email marketing list were associated with records of individuals who had ‘failed’ JUUL’s own age verification process,” read the complaint. On top of that, 83 percent of the estimated 420,000 email addresses on JUUL’s marketing list weren’t able to be matched with the record of someone at least 18 years old.

Advertising on youth networks

The lawsuit brings to light an onslaught of JUUL marketing on websites and TV networks that are “highly attractive to children, adolescents in middle school and high school, and underage college students.”

JUUL was found to have advertised on child favorites, such as Nickelodeon's Nick.com and NickJr.com. But the company didn’t stop there; it also bought ads on the Cartoon Network’s website and other websites generally designed for children such as allfreekidscrafts.com, hellokids.com, and kidsgameheroes.com. 

JUUL also reportedly purchased advertising on sites that younger girls favor such as dailydressupgames.com, didigames.com, forhergames.com, games2girls.com, girlgames.com, and girlsgogames.com. 

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