The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has started an investigation into marketing practices used by popular e-cigarette company Juul, including its use of influencers on social media, but the company told Digital Trends that it spent very little on influencer marketing and never targeted teens.
The Wall Street Journal reports that FTC investigators are looking into whether or not Juul used deceptive marketing practices to target their products to minors. Investigators are also interested in Juul’s hiring of influencers to promote its e-cigarette products and whether influencers were used to attract minors.
“Without commenting on any specific investigation, our paid influencer program, which was never formalized, was a small, short-lived pilot that ended in 2018,” a Juul spokesperson told Digital Trends. “We worked with fewer than 10 adults on JUUL-related content, and they were all smokers or former smokers over the age of 30.
The spokesperson added that it spent “less than $10,000” on influencers.
The company said that they have deleted all of its social media and “request that social media platforms delete inappropriate third party posts and listings.”
Juul said that they are cooperating with the investigation, but denied that they market to youth.
“Our earliest marketing campaign in 2015 was intended for adults in the 25-34 year-old demographic and lasted for six months. If one views the sales and revenue data, there is no evidence that it drove use, youth or otherwise. Nonetheless, we regret that the campaign was executed in a way that was perceived as appealing to minors,” the Juul spokesperson said.
The company announced new “aggressive steps” that include implementing “the strictest age-verification point-of-sale standards ever imposed for an age-restricted product at retail.” Juul also announced a “Track & Trace” program that traces confiscated Juul devices.
“We have no higher priority than to prevent youth usage of our products. Our product is intended for current adult smokers and our marketing specifically is designed to help achieve that goal,” Juul told Digital Trends.
According to reports, the FTC has been working for the past year to start an investigation into the e-cigarette company. Last September, the FTC requested marketing information from Juul.
The FTC isn’t the only one who has been interested in the company’s practices; last October, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducted a surprise inspection of Juul’s headquarters, according to CNBC.
“We’re going to be taking a series of escalating actions under our new Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan, beginning with our actions last week targeting JUUL products, and continuing with today’s effort with our partners at the FTC. We appreciate the FTC in joining us in these actions,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. said in an FTC press release from last year.
On Thursday, Bloomberg reported that an FDA investigation into whether vaping causes seizures was kicked off by reports of seizures hitting people who use Juul devices.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced earlier this month that it had found 149 cases of serious lung disease linked to e-cigarette use and was looking into the matter further.
Juul advertises its vaping products as being a safer and healthier substitution to traditional cigarette smoking. However, studies consistently show e-cigarette smokers are less likely to quit than regular smokers who have never used these kinds of devices.
In June, San Francisco, where Juul is headquartered, became the first city in the U.S. to ban the sales of e-cigarettes.
Digital Trends also reached out to the FTC for more details on the investigation, but we haven’t received a response.