Unethical Marketing Strategies of Juul E-Cigarette
The use of e-cigarettes has increased over the past few years since marketers promote them as a better alternative to traditional cigarettes. Marketing enhances the product’s popularity, making it more appealing, especially to the youth. Notably, the use of e-cigarettes is aimed at reducing smoking habits. Juul is one of the products in the market that has caused excitement because of its underlying qualities and characteristics. Manufacturers suggest that users can smoke it without any trace of nicotine smell (Mateo). However, according to Mateo, medical experts indicate that the product could be more dangerous than cigarettes. Although Juul is marketed as a safe product that can assist consumers to quit smoking, various ethical questions have emerged, including the possibility of nicotine addiction among the youth.
Literature reveals a high prevalence of poly-tobacco use in the United States. The “concurrent use of two or more products” is a serious issue in the country (McQuoid et al., 1469). Furthermore, many people are already addicted to nicotine, which probably explains the high rate of smoking multiple tobacco products. Estimates show that 22 percent of young adults are engaged in this habit (McQuoid et al. 1469). Researchers are interested in understanding the factors behind poly-tobacco use among young people. It is known that many smokers practice the habit because of social factors, including the formation of a smoker’s identity. Tobacco manufacturers capitalize on the social element to market their products extensively.
The social element of smoking causes a high prevalence of promotion strategies by tobacco manufacturers. Besides, it has contributed to the popularity of electronic nicotine delivery system devices (ENDS) (McQuoid et al. 1470). Companies manufacturing those gadgets market them as harmless alternatives to conventional cigarettes. Proponents suggest that the use of ENDS reduces the health risks associated with the effects of tobacco. However, opponents believe those products could be more harmful than the traditional ones. Regardless of the controversy, e-cigarette manufacturers and marketers are committed to increasing their market share and competitiveness.
The tobacco and nicotine market has become highly innovative in the last five years. New products such as e-cigarettes and other alternative nicotine delivery systems (ANDS) have revolutionized the industry and joined the portfolio of tobacco commodities. Public health struggles to deal with significant changes and related challenges. Conventional cigarettes pose various dangers to consumers’ health. The new products have increased the problems and created new health-related issues, especially affecting adolescents and young adults (de Andrade et al. 1). Differences in approaches to e-cigarette access reflect conflicts over the meaning and effects of these products. For example, the FDA seeks to curtail its marketing and distribution, citing potential dangers to consumers’ health. The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA) is one of the organizations in the United States that have been established to address the controversy over cigarettes, smoking reduction, and the safety of new products (Annechino and Antin 106). While the debate continues, marketers should understand the potential ethical violations involved in e-cigarette promotions.
The market has witnessed an increase in e-cigarette brands such as Juul, which have become highly popular in society. E-cigarette smoking in the United States is a serious health crisis because of its high prevalence among the youth. Recent studies indicate that 11.3 percent of high school students were reported to have used the product in the last 30 days in 2016 (Hammond et al. 2). The perception that e-cigarette smoking is not harmful and the availability of appealing flavors were among the reasons for the high prevalence of the product use. Branding also plays a crucial role in the problem as it attracts users and maintains customer loyalty. Companies market their product oblivious of the potential consequences, such as the harmful effect of Juul on the youth.
Juul’s manufacturer introduced the product in 2015 and aggressively marketed it to become highly popular among the youth and young adults. Juul has similar ingredients to other e-cigarettes, including nicotine, solvents, and flavorings (Mateo). It has a USB shape that makes it highly popular with adolescents, who are the leading consumers. The marketers and executives at PAX Labs deny claims that the product targets teenagers. However, its appearance is attractive to this customer segment (Richtel and Kaplan). The company recognizes that teenagers use their product because they pose on social media smoking e-cigarettes. Therefore, inadequate information about the product brings an important question regarding ethical marketing because of the product’s possible dangers.
Marketing has increased the popularity of Juul, primarily based on its appealing characteristics. The product’s current market share is about 68% of the $2 billion (Fraga). Evidently, it competes effectively, having a significant edge over other companies manufacturing and selling similar commodities. The management tries to justify its choice of the market segment for the product. According to the company’s former manager, they had initially used models aged at least 21 years before increasing the age limit to 35 years (Richtel and Kaplan). In June 2018, the management decided to target people who had quit smoking traditional cigarettes to e-cigarettes. The firm changed the target audience to stick to its mission of selling the commodity to adult smokers. However, despite the justifications made, critics have opposed the marketing strategy the company has used to promote its product.
Companies sometimes use misleading information to appeal to their target customers, creating an ethical challenge. According to Fraga, PAX Labs marketed Juul as a solution to the prevalent issue of smoking in society. Juul Labs reveals that the e-cigarette uses internal and regulated heating to create a vapor that a user inhales. The mechanism makes it safer compared to similar products that may explode because of overheating. Furthermore, Juul is easy to use since no settings are required for adjusting or controlling the get. Instead, it has heated e-liquid and is generated as vapor (Fraga). The information is important in appealing to existing and potential customers. However, the company has ignored the implications of the marketing strategy for young audiences, including children and adolescents.
Unethical marketing has always been a serious problem in various sectors because of increasing competition for customers. Although marketers focus on the positive side of the e-cigarette, evidence shows the contrary. Juul does not actually discourage people from smoking but rather motivates the habit. A study performed in 2017 revealed that non-smoking adults were four times in danger of starting smoking cigarettes after 18 months of smoking Juul (Fraga). Thus, the company has concealed the actual effect of the product while capitalizing on the positive side.
It is worth noting that Juul is more harmful than other e-cigarettes in the market. According to Fraga, the product has a higher concentration and nicotine content than others. The e-liquid is 5 percent nicotine by volume, while the entire mixture is more than twice that in other e-cigarettes, such as the Blu e-cig cartridge (2.4 percent nicotine). The high concentration increases the risk of dependence on nicotine, which is more addictive than alcohol and barbiturates (Fraga). Unfortunately, the content of nicotine in one pod is the same as that in a packet of traditional cigarettes. Consequently, given that the youth consume multiple pods in one sitting, they are exposed to a dangerously high level of the drug.
The dangerous effects of Juul raise ethical questions since the product targets adolescents. Although the company denies explicitly targeting this group, the product’s sleek nature provides evidence of unethical marketing. The e-cigarette is small and discreet, and it has a close resemblance to a USB drive. Adolescents can easily hide and use the product in various settings, including a classroom (Mateo). Teachers and school administrators have proven the prevalence of this problem. Some schools have even banned the use of USBs to protect students from destructive habits (Mateo). Unfortunately, exposure to e-cigarette advertisements has continued to aim at the young audience. During 2014–2016, such marketing information targeting middle and high school students in the United States has increased (Marynak et al. 299). Notably, PAX Lab’s marketers are as guilty as their peers in other e-cigarette companies because their advertisement approach is directed toward adolescents.
Juul performs remarkably well in the e-cigarette market, but its marketing raises significant ethical questions, especially considering its target consumers. Despite the company’s claims that it does not target children and adolescents, evidence shows a growing popularity of the product among individuals in these age groups. The manufacturer intentionally and unintentionally targets youth and young adults through a sleek design. Besides, the e-cigarette has other qualities that attract young users, such as its ease of charging and the presence of liquid-filled cartridges with enticing flavors, including mint, crème, and fruit medley (Fraga). As a result, e-cigarette has become commonly used in teenage hangouts, especially at schools. Considering the potential adverse effects of Juul, the youths are the at-risk population.
Although Juul marketers claim that the product is safe and encourages smokers to quit the habit, medical experts reveal contrary evidence. They argue that cigarettes have higher nicotine concentrations than similar products (Fraga). Nicotine is highly addictive, so the youth may depend on the product. The company misleads its consumers to believe in the safety of Juul, disregarding the possible detrimental outcomes. Apart from its addictive nature, nicotine can cause brain impairment and have negative effects on lung development in adolescent users. Brain imaging studies performed on teenagers have revealed that nicotine affects the part of the brain responsible for cognitive behavior and decision-making. The damage to the brain’s prefrontal cortex increases the danger of addiction to other drugs and impulsivity (Fraga). Unfortunately, instead of replacing cigarette smoking, Juul encourages the damaging habit.
The Silicon Valley startup company has defended its marketing strategies and claimed it does not target the youth. Its management further alleges Juul supports smokers who want to quit the habit. However, an analysis of the company’s marketing campaigns reveals contrary facts. A group of researchers with Stanford Research Into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising found the actual target PAX Labs’ promotional information. They discovered that the company’s marketing campaign between 2015 and the fall of 2018 was patently youth-oriented (Belluz). Therefore, this study hypothesizes that PAX Labs’ marketing strategy is unethical for targeting children and adolescents and encouraging them to consume addictive nicotine products.
The study utilizes a secondary review of the literature on the ethical implications of Juul’s marketing strategy based on the argument that marketers target children and adolescents. The researcher used online databases, including EBSCOhost and Google Scholar, to locate articles with data on the topic. The study also includes information from reliable websites such as online magazines. The search generated ten journal articles useful for the study, which provided content for the literature review and solutions to the ethical problem.
Identification of Alternative Courses of Action. Ethical issues surrounding the marketing and use of Juul are evident. Therefore, policymakers should create a comprehensive youth tobacco prevention program to protect children and adolescents from the harmful effects of e-cigarettes. The plan should include approaches to reduce access to information, such as the regulation of youth-oriented marketing. For example, the government should design a policy to prevent the use of young models to advertise the products (Marynak et al. 299). Such strategies encourage the youth to experiment with destructive products, especially when companies use social media to deliver content. Marketing regulators should control the promotion content before the adverts reach the market and bar any that does not meet the standards. Consequently, they will ensure that young people do not access damaging and misleading content.
Another possible solution is restricting access to tobacco products in the market to protect the youth from the harmful effects. Currently, e-cigarettes cannot be sold to individuals under the age of 21 years. However, enforcing the rule is challenging because the products are accessed through the black market, which is accessible to teenagers (Fraga). Therefore, through its agencies, such as the FDA, the government should create new rules to control the marketing of the products and prevent young people from purchasing them. They should impose strict consequences against any company or retailer that violates the age limit laws. Significant policing efforts are necessary to solve the current problem.
The youth should be educated on the dangers of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. Therefore, policymakers can collaborate with educators to develop and implement high-impact youth-focused tobacco education campaigns to promote behavioral change among young people. They should implement such programs in communities and schools to deliver information effectively about the harmful effects of e-cigarettes. The initiatives should include facts about the dangers, such as addiction and detrimental impact on consumers’ health. Furthermore, tobacco education campaigns should counter the impact of marketing companies’ adverts on the youth. Information is a powerful tool that influences behavior change and can operate at the preventive and curative levels. Implementers should determine the most effective means of information delivery to counter the appeal created through marketing and the enticing characteristics of the product.
The proposed courses of action might be effective in addressing the problem of Juul. It will be impossible to stop the e-cigarette market, but policymakers can collaborate with other stakeholders to protect children and adolescents. The most effective solution to the problem is an integrated approach to the challenge. The various participants should be responsible for the efforts to solve the problem. Marketers should maintain ethical promotion strategies to prevent the delivery of misleading information to the youth. Companies should participate in the solution by supporting the implementation of regulated youth-oriented marketing. Law enforcement officers should work with retailers to prevent sales of e-cigarettes to children and adolescents. Finally, educators should play an important role in creating youth-focused tobacco education campaigns targeting students. The problem of Juul affects the entire society, and hence, only collaborative efforts will enable the implementation of a comprehensive approach.
Inclusive control programs can prevent the misuse of tobacco products, including Juul. Implementers of such programs should use all necessary resources to prevent further damage to children and adolescents from the use of such products. They should perform thorough research to provide evidence-based information on effective strategies to adopt the initiatives. Available research findings reveal the possible danger of e-cigarette marketing. However, studies fail to provide effective methods of protecting the young audience from the adverse effects of the products. Therefore, government agencies such as the FDA should conduct further investigations to propose comprehensive efforts to prevent the use of Juul and other e-cigarettes among the youth. Further, policy-makers should collaborate to provide adequate resources to enhance the program’s success. The current situation reveals a severe problem in need of an urgent response.
Research evidence shows that the e-cigarette market in the United States has been growing for the past five years. Juul is one of the leading products in the sector, which has taken more than 50 percent of the consumers. Unfortunately, the leading customer segment for the product is adolescents and young adults. Unethical marketing approaches provide misleading information targeting these age groups, creating more challenges when dealing with addiction. The marketers suggest that the product is a safe alternative to traditional smoking and a solution to help smokers quit the behavior. However, research suggests otherwise and confirms higher nicotine content in e-cigarettes compared to conventional cigarettes. Hence, these issues pose a danger of dependence and other damaging health problems, especially among younger consumers. The problem is worse because many students become addicted to Juul. As a point of urgency, policymakers should design a comprehensive program through the collaborative efforts of different stakeholders, including marketers, law enforcement officers, government agencies, and educators. Such a plan will address the ethical challenge on different levels successfully.
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Belluz, Julia. “The Vape Company Juul Said It Doesn’t Target Teens. Its Early Ads Tell a Different Story.” Vox, 25 Jan. 2019, www.vox.com/2019/1/25/18194953/vape-juul-e-cigarette-marketing. Accessed 8 Feb. 2019.
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Mateo, Ashley. “What Is Juul and Is It Better for You Than Smoking?” Shape, 15 Nov. 2018, www.shape.com/lifestyle/mind-and-body/what-is-juul-bad-for-you. Accessed 8 Feb. 2019.
Richtel, Matt, and Sheila. Kaplan. “Did Juul Lure Teenagers and Get ‘Customers for Life.’” The New York Times, 27 Aug. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/08/27/science/juul-vaping-teen-marketing.html. Accessed 8 Feb. 2019.