The Juul—the ubiquitous flash drive-looking device, found in middle schools and high schools across the country. Their increase in popularity is alarming: an FDA study found that 3.6 million high school and middle school students currently use the Juul.
How did these devices become so mainstream in youth culture? The answer is Juul’s targeted marketing and their flavored pods. Juul frames its product as a healthier alternative to cigarettes for smokers looking to quit. However, the company depicted images of hip, young models—not adult smokers—using Juuls in its initial campaign. The company also offers pods in flavors like “cool cucumber,” “bubblegum,” “mango,” and “creme brûlée.”
How could any sane person think that Juul doesn't intentionally market to teenagers? Apparently the FDA agrees, as they raided Juul’s headquarters in October, seizing documents related to Juul’s marketing and sales practices.
In response to impending regulation from the FDA and public outcry over its marketing practices, Juul recently announced it would be retiring the majority of its flavor pods, leaving just three: mint, tobacco, and menthol. In addition, the company is implementing limits on the number of pods and devices that can be purchased as a means to stop bulk purchases and the inevitable distribution to minors.
While these efforts are welcome, the company's claim that these actions are out of Juul’s concern for the wellbeing of teenagers is false. Think about it: the more teenagers use Juuls, the more profit Juul makes. That is why they market to a young demographic to begin with. These actions were not made out of concern for the health of young people; rather, they were made in an attempt to avoid potential legal trouble with the FDA, which has been aggressively targeting vape manufactures for the “epidemic use of electronic cigarettes and nicotine addiction among kids.”
We should not being giving money to a company whose product leads to nicotine addiction and whose ads purposefully appeal to children. These are the obvious moral and ethical reasons against supporting Juul. However, there are other reasons to do so as well. Regardless of how they are portrayed in ads, Juuls are objectively not cool. Giving a company money to get addicted to an unhealthy substance such as nicotine does not make sense. Think about what you could be spending that money on instead! Maybe going into Boston more than you normally do, eating out with friends, or even treating yourself to that video game that just came out.
Yes, Juuls are healthier than cigarettes overall and can in fact help users stop smoking. However, for those who only started Juuling in high school or college and never previously smoked, now is the time to try and quit.
Ultimately, Juul is a company that has marketed to teenagers in the past, and will continue to take advantage of anyone willing to pay for its addictive products in the future. There is only one thing we can do to make Juul stop: refrain from using their products, and above all, don’t give Juul your money.