Objective In April 2018, JUUL Labs announced a $30 million investment in efforts to combat underage use of its products through ‘independent research, youth and parent education and community engagement’. Prior evidence demonstrates that tobacco industry-funded prevention programmes are ineffective and may work against tobacco control efforts; they do not discourage novices and youth from tobacco use but often improve the tobacco industry’s public image. We describe the nature, timing of and expenditures related to the JUUL underage use prevention advertisements across media channels.
Methods Expenditures for newspaper, magazine, television, and radio marketing and promotional efforts were collected through Kantar Media’s ‘Stradegy’ dashboard, an online platform which provides counts of advertisement occurrences and expenditures on various media channels. JUUL public relations and corporate social responsibility ads were identified in the Kantar Database. All ad expenditures were extracted and aggregated by date. Analysis of the expenditure data was triangulated with newspaper and industry advertisement archives.
Results Advertisements aired nationally and in over half of all US-designated market areas (n=130) across media platforms including newspapers, magazines, radio, and online in mobile web and internet displays. In 2018, JUUL Labs spent $30 million, predominantly for print advertising. The ‘What Parents Need to Know about JUUL’ ads primarily advertised JUUL’s smoking reduction ‘mission’ and promoted the product. By 2019, advertising increased to $36.2 million. JUUL’s message strategy transitioned to ‘Cracking Down on Underage Sales in Retail Stores’ and featured adult smoker testimonies, linking JUUL to smoking cessation.
Discussion Marketing expenditures promoting JUUL’s corporate social responsibility mission exceeded their $30 million investment in the underage use prevention efforts. The expenditures were focused on the media market areas where health organisation and legislative officials were launching investigations into JUUL social media and other promotional strategies.
- advertising and promotion
- tobacco industry
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Contributors GS, GK, SLE, LC and BS together designed the study. GS conducted data analysis. SLE and GK contributed to data interpretation. GK and GS wrote the first draft. SLE, LC, MB, RA and BS revised the draft. The final version of the paper has been reviewed and approved by all coauthors.
Funding This study was funded by Truth Initiative.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.