Earlier this year, the US Food and Drug Administration set its sights on e-cigs and launched a massive campaign to discourage teens from using e-cigarettes. The FDA also announced an investigation into several vaping products—namely the most popular brand, Juul which makes up 72 percent of the market—for allegedly marketing their products to teens.
Because the FDA can’t understand why teen vaping has rapidly increased over the last few years, they think the answer might lie in marketing. Recently, this investigation came to a head when the FDA launched an “unannounced on-site inspection” — also known as a raid — of the Juul headquarters. During the raid, the FDA seized “thousands of pages of documents,” according to the FDA.
“The JUUL inspection, which we completed on Friday, sought further documentation related to JUUL’s sales and marketing practices, among other things, and resulted in the collection of over a thousand pages of documents,” the FDA said in a statement emailed to Gizmodo. “The inspection followed the Agency’s request for information that we issued to JUUL Labs in April for documents that would help us to better understand the reportedly high rates of youth use and the youth appeal of JUUL products, including documents related to marketing and product design.”
In response to the FDA’s unannounced raid, Juul CEO Kevin Burns said they plan to work with the FDA and claim to have never marketed to children and the documents will prove it.
“We are committed to preventing underage use, and we want to engage with FDA, lawmakers, public health advocates and others to keep JUUL out of the hands of young people. The meetings last week with FDA gave us the opportunity to provide information about our business from our marketing practices to our industry-leading online age-verification protocols to our youth prevention efforts. It was a constructive and transparent dialogue,” Burns said. “We’ve now released over 50,000 pages of documents to the FDA since April that support our public statements. We look forward to presenting our plan to address youth access in the 60-day time frame as outlined by FDA. We want to be part of the solution in preventing underage use, and we believe it will take industry and regulators working together to restrict youth access.”
For those old enough to remember, big tobacco was accused of similar marketing schemes in the 80s and 90s. The U.S. marketing team of R. J. Reynolds (RJR), looking for an idea to promote Camel cigarettes used a cartoon Camel to make smoking look “cool.”
In 1991, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study showing that by age six nearly as many children could correctly respond that “Joe Camel” was associated with cigarettes as could respond that the Disney Channel logo was associated with Mickey Mouse, and alleged that the “Joe Camel” campaign was targeting children, despite R. J. Reynolds’ contention that the campaign had been researched only among adults and was directed only at the smokers of other brands.
This accusation would later be proven true as internal documents revealed the industry’s interest in targeting children as future smokers. In a presentation given by the company’s vice president in 1974, he explained that the “young adult market . . . represent[s] tomorrow’s cigarette business. As this 14-24 age group matures, they will account for a key share of the total cigarette volume – for at least the next 25 years.”
Whether or not Juul is involved in a similar scheme has yet to be determined. However, while the FDA scrambles to find a solution to the teen vaping epidemic, TFTP already has one. Even if Juul was marketed to kids during afternoon cartoons, parents should inform their children on the dangers of a nicotine addiction instead of relying on the government to do it for them. Good parenting is far more effective than government regulation.