New guidelines will set limits on how the embattled e-cigarette company can target young people with its product

By Kari Paul, The Guardian

The settlement, announced on Thursday by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH), an environmental health watchdog, will enforce nine new regulations around the promotion of Juul products.

Under the new guidelines, Juul is prohibited from advertising on social media or media outlets with younger readers – specifically, if at least 15% of a publication’s audience is under 21. It cannot advertise within 1,000ft of schools or playgrounds and will be prohibited from using models under the age of 28 in its advertisements. It cannot sponsor or advertise at sporting events or concerts that allow people under the age of 21.

If Juul violates any component of the agreement, it risks getting sued by the CEH. The settlement is “a personal victory”, CEH’s executive officer, Michael Green, told the Guardian, adding that his children, aged 12 and 10, are part of the generation the agreement seeks to address.

“Young people today think that smoking is gross, so big tobacco switched to a new product: e-cigarettes,” said Green. “Juul uses sophisticated and targeted marketing to convince youth that e-cigarettes are safe. We just couldn’t sit back and allow big tobacco to hook a new generation of nicotine addicts.”

The CEH settlement comes during a chaotic year for Juul, which had previously been valued at $15bn. In September, the company’s chief executive Kevin Burns stepped down amid growing concerns about the prevalence of vaping among teens and a rising number of vaping-related lung injuries being reported.

While Juul has been advertised as a smoking cessation device for adults, teen e-cigarette use doubled between 2017 and 2018, according to a survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) – leading the US surgeon general to call it an “epidemic” in 2018. As of 2019, more than one in four students in 12th grade, one in five in 10th grade, and one in 11 in eighth-grade vape nicotine, the study found.

Meanwhile, the lawsuits against Juul are piling up. On Tuesday, a Florida woman filed a wrongful death suit against the company after her 18-year-old son died in his sleep following years of addiction to e-cigarettes.

More than 1,300 cases of lung injuries tied to vaping have been reported in recent months, leading the CDC to encourage adults to “[refrain] from using e-cigarette, or vaping, products, particularly those containing THC”.

Juul has always maintained it is meant to be used by adults as a tool to quit smoking, and a spokesman told the Guardian it recently suspended all broadcast, print and digital product advertising in the US as it reviews company policies.

“We agree with CEH that no youth should use Juul products and we are committed to combatting underage use,” said the spokesman. “This settlement affirms voluntarily responsible marketing practices that Juul Labs has had in place – we have never marketed to youth and do not want any non-nicotine users to try our products.