JUUL claims they “don’t want to see a new generation of smokers.” Maybe someone should tell them who keeps Altria – the makers of Marlboro – in business.
JUUL has assured us time and again that they absolutely are “not Big Tobacco.”
But lately, they’re looking pretty much identical to the powerful menace we know as the tobacco industry. In fact, they’ve borrowed just about every tactic in Big Tobacco’s playbook. And now, they’re joining forces with one of the biggest tobacco giants in the world – Altria.
Flavors put JUUL on the map. Now, they’re worth $38 Billion.
Big Tobacco had its own run with flavors. In the ‘70s, a tobacco exec said that “it’s a known fact: teenagers like sweet products.” Flavored cigarettes – except menthol – were ultimately banned in 2009 because they appealed to kids. Which is why it’s no surprise that JUUL’s fruity flavors were such a hit with high schoolers. Right now, 15- to 17-year-olds have 16x greater odds of using JUUL than 25- to 34-year-olds.
JUUL maintains that they never meant to appeal to youth. But their recent history might suggest a different story.
Recently, JUUL reached out to schools to sponsor e-cigarette education programs for grades K-12. Which might seem like a sign of genuine concern for public health to some. Except… Marlboro did the exact same thing in the ‘90s, and we all realized that what was disguised as a youth education program was probably just an attempt to make kids reaallly like your brand.
With pressure from the FDA, JUUL has doubled down on their alleged commitment to adult smokers.
Last month, they made huge changes within the company – including shutting down their Facebook and Instagram pages, taking fruit-flavored pods out of stores, and investing $30 million in fighting underage use of their products. Yet, their lobbying spend is higher than ever. In just the past year, JUUL has increased its spending by 642% to around $890,000. And with Altria’s investment, they’ll have Big Tobacco’s incredible lobbying power.
Raise your hand if you’re shocked that the maker of one of the most popular nicotine products on the market is looking to Big Tobacco for inspiration.
And this isn’t the first time they’ve done it, either. The founders of JUUL teamed up with Japan Tobacco on their first vaping product, Ploom, in 2007. A product that was also designed to be a “clean, more flavorful alternative to smoking.”