JUUL Labs, a San Francisco-based company that has been at the centre of the latest anti-vaping hysteria, announced on Wednesday that it will spend $30 million over the next three years educating teens about why they shouldn’t start vaping. It’s an unusual move for a vaping company, and probably sparked by the storm of controversy that’s erupted around their products over the past year.
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While vaping in general is a hotly debated topic in the USA, most recent attention has focused on the popular JUUL pod system. This device is now the leading vapour product in the USA, with around 45% of the market, and is building a reputation as an effective replacement for cigarettes – but it’s also attracted hostile media coverage for its alleged attractiveness to young people. Now the company is taking steps to counter that argument.
The first stage of the campaign will run in June, with a website, print ads and radio spots. The key message is “JUUL is not for kids”, and the emphasis is on pointing out that the product was developed for adult smokers who want a less harmful alternative.
This campaign is only the start; JUUL’s plans include research, youth and parent education, and engaging with communities to deter JUUL use among young non-smokers. They also plan to give schools grants of up to $10,000 to help them run their own education programmes.
It’s unclear how well received this campaign will be among anti-vaping activists. While JUUL have always marketed their products at smokers, allegations of targeting children have often been thrown at the company. To the extent a problem with under-age JUUL use does exist, the blame lies with retailers – and the FDA has already sent warning letters to around 40 who have been caught selling the devices to under-age buyers. JUUL Labs themselves operate a strict over-21 age policy on direct sales.