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Switching stories: user testimonials on continue to contradict JUUL’s switch ≠ cessation narrative


Background In January 2019, electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) market leader Juul Labs (JUUL) launched an advertising campaign encouraging adult smokers to ‘make the switch’ from combustible cigarettes to JUUL. Our primary aim was to describe consumer perceptions of JUUL as communicated by members of JUUL’s online social community via testimonials promoted on JUUL’s website.

Methods User testimonials that were displayed on the JUUL website in December 2019 and January 2020 were collected and coded by three reviewers. A total of 220 testimonials were coded for primary and secondary themes (eight codes within four broader themes).

Results Testimonial writers were, on average, 43.0 years old (range 28 to 74) and reported using JUUL for an average of 21.8 months (range 9 to 59 months). The most prominent theme, present in nearly half of the testimonials, was a description of how to use JUUL, with a mention of JUUL’s benefits and tips on how to use the product. Nearly four in 10 statements encouraged smokers to give JUUL a try or noted that JUUL is a better product compared with cigarettes. About one in 10 statements focused on switching from smoking cigarettes to using JUUL.

Conclusion This study presents a foundation for understanding how adult users describe JUUL, including their experiences using JUUL to ‘switch’ or stop smoking. Currently, the effectiveness of ENDS for smoking cessation is not supported by substantial evidence; however, if cessation is defined as ‘quitting combustible tobacco products’, then regulators should be aware that switch and cessation messages may not be distinct.

  • electronic nicotine delivery devices
  • advertising and promotion
  • public policy

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