The e-cigarette maker Juul Labs purchased ad space on numerous youth-focused websites, including Nickelodeon, the Cartoon Network, and educational sites for kids in elementary school, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday by the Massachusetts attorney general. The vaping company has long maintained it never marketed its products to teenagers. The suit states Juul Labs rejected a marketing proposal by a firm dubbed “Cult Collective” that focused on targeting adult smokers and instead hired an in-house interim art director to produce “VaporiEd,” a youth-oriented campaign. “Juul decided against doing an ad campaign designed for an older audience and instead specifically chose one that targeted young people,” according to the state’s attorney general, Maura Healey. “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.”
The complaint includes stark evidence that the company was targeting young nonsmokers in its early days from June 2015 to early 2016 and featured young models in digital ads on websites, mobile apps, and social media. The ad space was purchased on websites such as Seventeen magazine and educational sites for middle-school and high-school students, including purplemath.com and coolmath.com. The suit also lists sites geared to high-school students looking at colleges, like collegeconfidential.com, and young children who are seeking pages to color, including hellokids.com.