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This Is How E-cigarette Marketing Targets Kids

September 19, 2019

E-cigarettes have become a pop-culture staple. Although electronic cigarette companies stand by their claim that they never intended to target young people, their actions carry a different message.

Recently, the CEO of leading electronic cigarette company “Juul” was asked what he would say to parents whose children are using e-cigarettes. Kevin Burns says he would apologize. He says his product was never intended for young people in the first place. But their marketing tactics may say otherwise.

Let’s look at some of the marketing tactics e-cigarette companies use and how it affects the increase in nicotine consumption among young people.

Hashtag Marketing

Despite the 1971 cigarette ad ban companies are allowed to use traditional media as well as social media for advertising. That’s because there is very little government regulation on e-cigarette advertising.

Juul and other e-cig brands have taken notes from cigarette brand’s ads like Marlboro. When putting their ads side-by-side they look nearly identical. The Juul ads tend to mimic the sense of good times and youthfulness the old Marlboro ads portrayed.

e-cigarette marketing(Source: Vox)

Today’s youth spends a majority of their time scrolling through social media apps like Instagram. 61% of users on Instagram range in age from 12-34. Therefore more than half of Instagram users do not fall under Juul’s supposed target market. Juul spent one million dollars establishing an internet presence in 2015, making social media and digital marketing a major priority.

Despite Juul taking down their Instagram, their hashtags live on social media far beyond their physical presence. With the creation of trendy hashtags like #juulnation, #vaporized, and #juullife, youth on Instagram and Twitter are being exposed to an idea that juuling is an experience rather than a terrible habit.

Appealing Vapor Flavors

Electric cigarette companies have been known to make enticing, sweet flavors of vape such as popular cereal flavors, candy flavors, and fruity flavors. Researchers have found that 43% of young people say they tried e-cigarettes because of the flavors offered. Study also shows most teenagers didn’t even realize the juices had nicotine in them.

Before recent government legislation, companies were packaging vape juices to look like common food and candy products.

Screen Shot 2019-09-09 at 1.53.55 PM

(Source: Buzz Feed News)

Not only does the creative branding make it more appealing to young users but also poses a problem for parents who own small children. Because the packaging looks like candy, it raises the concern that children may consume the product thinking it is in fact, candy.

Increase In Nicotine Consumption among Youth

Aside from generating a lot of buzz on social media through hashtags and creating delicious e-liquid flavors yummy enough to eat, big-time e-cig brands have also sponsored music festivals where they built vaping lounges for concert-goers to vape and charge their e-cigarettes.

It doesn’t just stop at musical events, they are even targeting high school graduates by giving students scholarships for writing essays on the benefits of smoking e-cigarettes.

Most of these big brand’s marketing moves seem to be centered around drawing in young people who have never smoked before and the numbers don’t lie.

According to 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS) data, current vaping among middle and high school students alarmingly increased between 2017 and 2018. There has been a 78% increase in the use of e-cigs among high school students and a 48% increase among middle school students.

The popularization of electronic cigarettes directly correlates to the rise of e-cig companies, like Juul, and their obvious marketing tactics to draw in a young audience. From the sleek design to the variety of flavors, e-cig companies have captured today's youth hook, line, and sinker.

The bottom line is vaping is not healthy. Electronic cigarettes carry many of the same health risks as regular cigarettes. If you or your children are using e-cigarettes and want to quit, talk to your doctor.

Or you can learn more about the dangers of smoking and find out how you can quit by checking out our new guide “Reversing the Harmful Effects of Smoking.”