Photograph by Talia Cole
With a sleek design, catchy name, and fun flavors, Juuls have become almost irresistible for millions of teenagers across the United States. At Berkeley High School (BHS), juuling has become a popular pastime for students at lunch, in the bathrooms, and even during class behind teachers’ turned backs.
Despite the company’s claim that they intended to be an e-cigarette alternative for adult smokers, they quickly turned into the new craze for teens. Juul Labs comprises nearly 75% of the e-cigarette market, and along with the rising levels of nicotine addiction among adolescents, there is controversy over how responsible the company is. As of April 2018, the Food and Drug Administration announced they were investigating if Juul intentionally marketed their product to youth, as there is mounting evidence that the company ignored the blatant bias of Juuls towards the teen population. This argument is not unfounded. Even in the early months that Juuls went on the market, teens often were posting photos and videos of themselves using Juuls. The company could have easily exploited this to gain popularity in the e-cigarette market.
Flavor names such as “creme brûlée” or “cool cucumber” have been especially attracting for teens. According to The New York Times, one third of teen e-cigarette users reported that flavors were a big factor in their choice of product.
To give some perspective, more than three million middle and high schoolers use e-cigarettes, and the majority use Juuls. One can’t help but suspect that Juul intentionally marketed these flavors to teens. Amid rising criticism, Juul suspended selling most flavored pods this past month, and have switched to more simplistic names such as “creme” and “cucumber.” The New York Times also reported that employees at Juul were well aware that they were attracting teen customers. Even the company’s advertisements featured young models, which was clearly to attract young people.
The company has taken steps recently to address the epidemic of teen nicotine addiction, however they have lacked in addressing how their marketing may have targeted this population. Juul has a responsibility to take steps towards fixing this problem that they played a large part in creating. Whether this is through tougher restrictions or awareness campaigns, there are certainly ways that the company can discourage teens from using Juuls.