Juul's annus horribilis looks to be extending into 2020 as a lawsuit has just been filed in Massachusetts with potentially some of the strongest evidence to date that the company was targeting children and teens with its marketing.
According to the new suit filed Wednesday by the Massachusetts attorney general, Juul Labs was actively buying ad space on the websites of Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and Seventeen magazine during its launch period in mid-2015. And, as the New York Times reports, the company allegedly rejected a proposal by a marketing firm it had hired that would have specifically targeted adult smokers.
In a statement Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said, "The information that we uncovered in our investigation demonstrates Juul’s intent — they didn’t accidentally create an advertising campaign with young and attractive people — that’s what they were going for all along."
And, according to the 66-page complaint, the list of websites where Juul's early ads were running is comically child-centric. These allegedly included socialstudiesforkids.com, coolmath.com, games2girls.com, and dailydressupgames.com.
Furthermore, there is evidence that Juul was knowingly shipping their products to teens. The lawsuit contends that 1,200 accounts with the company were set up using high school student email addresses. And investigators found an email suggesting that a Juul support staffer was guiding an underage person to use a friend or relative's shipping address because the legal age to purchase tobacco products in Massachusetts is 21.
Following the FDA's recent ban on fruity-flavored e-cigarette products, Juul curtailed most of its sales of those flavors, and the company that was recently a major SF success story is now in a race to survive and apply for FDA approval by May.
Meanwhile, multiple states are suing Juul Labs over its marketing practices, including Arizona, California, Illinois, Minnesota, Mississippi, and New York. And in November, Juul Labs laid off 650 employees, or about 16 percent of its workforce.
Last week, some leaks from inside Juul Labs obtained by BuzzFeed suggested that morale for the employees who remain is "at an all-time low," and that seems understandable.