Juul’s New Marketing Is Straight Out Of Big Tobacco’s Playbook

Juul has switched its marketing to show it as a healthy alternative

Out of a firestorm of controversy over teen nicotine use, Juul Labs emerged in January with a newly sober and adult marketing identity. Forget the fruit-flavored vaping pods, the colorful ads populated with young models, the viral Instagram and Facebook posts. What the Silicon Valley e-cigarette giant is really about, its $10 million television ad campaign declares, is helping cigarette smokers shake their cigarette addictions and get healthy.

The ads feature mature subjects with their ages clearly stated on screen: “Carolyn, 54,” “Patrick, 47,” “Mimi, 37.” They sit against muted domestic backdrops and say that because of Juul, they’ll never touch a cigarette again after decades of dependency. Juuling, they emphasize, is an “alternative” to smoking. Juul’s website underlines that message: “Our mission,” one page reads in bold white text, is to “improve the lives of the world’s one billion adult smokers by eliminating cigarettes.”

In its effort to define its products as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes, Juul appears to be following a familiar marketing cycle. Throughout the 20th century, as warnings about the health risks of cigarettes arose, tobacco companies repeatedly found new ways to downplay concerns and advertise their products as healthy options. When their claims were refuted by evidence, they traded them out for new claims.

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