By Alaina Perdon
Elm Staff Writer
In June 2015, Twitter was flooded with fresh pictures of party-going millennials seemingly having the time of their lives — a phenomenon not particularly unusual for the social media platform. This instance was unique, however, as each partier appeared to be sporting the latest e-cigarette: the JUUL. Attracted by the alluring photos, the teens of Twitter spread the posts and purchased the product in droves. This was the exact intent of JUUL Labs, makers of the JUUL, who carefully orchestrated “a really great party” as opposed to running a conventional marketing campaign to announce the launch of their new vape products.
Insights such as this from anonymous former JUUL employees reveal a devious marketing ploy in the works. JUUL ads featuring young individuals and bold colors are often paired with trendy hashtags to generate retweets and shares. By creating a product and formatting advertisements in accordance with the current generation’s ideal “aesthetic,” the company ensnares easily-influenced adolescents, getting them to not only spread the flashy social media ads; but also, more detrimentally, to obtain the products.
The scheme has been successful thus far: A study by Reuters reveals over a quarter of JUUL’s Twitter interactions come from underage users. Approximately 11 percent of high school seniors in the United States report they regularly use the product. Despite the company’s claims that its target demographic is adult smokers in want of an alternative, they have undoubtedly attracted a large adolescent audience on purpose.
That audience includes Washington College students. “I saw it a lot on Snapchat stories,” said Eli Schut, junior. “And everyone at college had one so I figured it would be good. I don’t smoke cigarettes now, but I do the nicotine of a lot more than I used to these days.”
JUUL Labs has a number of motives for doing such a thing. Teens are often unaware that JUULs contain nicotine and a slew of other harmful substances, making them just as dangerous as smoking cigarettes.
The company capitalizes on this naiveite, using youthful innocence to push their product. More heinous, however, is that JUUL Labs takes advantage of the fact that developing brains are more susceptible to addiction. By getting a high schooler hooked on nicotine, the company has a good chance of maintaining that customer for decades.
What JUUL Labs is doing is downright diabolical, preying on malleable minds in the same manner “Big Tobacco” targets minorities and low-income individuals. In both instances, large corporations are exploiting human beings, casting aside the value of a person’s life for the sake of a profit. JUUL Labs is currently facing harsh penalties for endangering the lives of teens for their own benefit, and their product may be banned.