JUUL Facing Accusations of Predatory Marketing
July 12, 2019
Teens vaping is becoming an increasing problem, a 15-year-old girl and her family recently filed a class action lawsuit against two corporations: mega vape manufacturing company JUUL Labs and the Altria Group, a tobacco company that owns Philip Morris and has a 35% stake in JUUL. The suit alleges that not only does JUUL target teenagers with predatory marketing tactics, but that they also fail to warn consumers about the serious – and potentially deadly – risks that go along with use of its addictive products.
What are E-Cigarettes, or Vapes?
E-cigarettes (which are also called vaporizers or vapes) were first introduced to the U.S. market in 2004. Since then, they have only become more popular. E-cigs are battery-powered vaporizers that simulate the act of smoking without physically burning tobacco (instead, they have internal heating elements). Vape users inhale “vapors”, or aerosol liquid solutions that typically contain a variety of chemicals, like:
- Propylene glycol (liquid alcohol);
- Glycerin, and:
- Other additives and contaminants
Although vape manufacturers claim that e-cigarettes are less harmful than conventional tobacco products, the truth is nowhere near that simple. For example, after the 15-year-old plaintiff in the suit against JUUL and Altria became addicted to JUUL’s e-cigarettes, she began to experience seizures. Seizures are just one of the potential (though rare) side effect of nicotine addiction.
Researchers and safety and health organizations have identified numerous hazards associated with e-cigarette and vape use. Some of these are:
- Increased risk of heart attack and stroke;
- Increased exposure to addictive nicotine;
- Exposure to carcinogens, or known cancer-causing agents (as well as exposure to unknown amounts of other toxic substances), and:
- Nausea, vomiting, coughing, headache, blurry vision, abdominal pain, and throat and/or mouth irritation
Despite claims of safe use by e-cigarette manufacturers, the wealth of information out there indicates otherwise. Remember: the products themselves can be extremely dangerous. Defectively manufactured e-cigarettes can explode, causing an array of serious and debilitating injuries. In some cases, the consequences are deadly; just last year a Florida man was found dead after his e-cigarette exploded and started a fire in his home.
JUUL’s Marketing Methods May Target Teens
According to recent data from the CDC, approximately 1 in 20 middle school students and 1 in 5 high school students use vape products. Altogether, there are more than 3.5 million teen users across the country. On top of that, the number of teens using vape products keeps going up: between 2017 and 2018, more than 1.4 million teenagers started using e-cigarettes.
Stanford researchers have called JUUL’s marketing tactics “patently youth-oriented”, which means they use methods known to peak the interest of younger (and notoriously more impressionable) consumers. 75% of American e-cigarette users own or use JUUL products, so the company is without doubt the most popular nationwide.
Here are just a few examples of how JUUL’s marketing campaigns and product offerings aim to draw in young users:
- JUUL’s products are discreet, which teens like. The company’s e-cigarettes look like USB drives, are easy to conceal, and come in a variety of “fruity” and “fun” flavors, like “creme” and “mango”, and:
- JUUL uses complex social media-based marketing campaigns. The campaigns usually show social media influencers and other social media-based celebrities using their products amidst colorful scenes with catchy music playing (these methods are commonly used in campaigns marketing to kids and teens)
JUUL Labs is sticking to its story and saying they do not intentionally market to teenage consumers. The corporation’s Chief Executive, Kevin Burns, said: “our intent was never to have youth use Juul. But intent is not enough” and that is true – in this case, intent is nowhere near enough. With millions of teen users and an array of identifiable health and safety concerns at play, steps must be taken to better protect young Americans.
We will update this story as it continues to develop, but if you have questions or concerns about health or safety effects linked to vape and e-cigarette use, please contact a representative at our firm directly.
Philadelphia Product Liability Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP Represent Individuals Injured by Electronic Cigarettes
If you use JUUL or other electronic cigarettes — also known as “e-cigarettes” or “vapes”—and have questions about your rights, please contact our Philadelphia product liability lawyers. Galfand Berger has offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Reading and Lancaster, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.