Juul’s vaping crisis and the behavior change marketing that should follow

The rise and fall of the vaping craze happened in what seemed like a blink of the eye. In less than five years, vaping became a social phenomenon attracting teens and young adults through its “safer than cigarettes” image that gave it almost cart blanche at bypassing traditional tobacco marketing regulations. With the release of various flavors, vaping was essentially marketed as sexy and trendy by aggressively marketing through nightlife, entertainment, and influencer channels. This image nearly dispelled every negative image associated with smoking tobacco products. That is until the recent fall out at Juul, the market leader in e-cigarettes, for its role in vaping-related deaths and hundreds of reported lung issues.

Consequently, Walmart announced that it would no longer sell vaping products, and many states are calling for a ban of e-cigarettes. Juul CEO was recently ousted and the company announced that it would pull the plug on the marketing and advertising of its vaping products.

But there’s an estimated 5 million kids that now use e-cigarettes (according to Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids) plus millions more of adults who bought into the vaping hype. Cutting all marketing and advertising alone is not sufficient to undo the imagery and perceptions that were designed around vaping. All of these users will need to be de-programmed with a behavior change marketing campaign that dispels the social norms of vaping and re-educates users on the health consequences. 

At Blueprint Creative, we’ve worked on similar campaigns that required a combination of knowledge change, intervention strategies, and social norms marketing to change the culture around a negative behavior. We know from experience that because the damage has been done, preventing any further new users is the first step in this new anti-vaping reality. Much like the tobacco industry’s Truth campaign, e-cigarettes will need a similar messaging campaign. Existing users will need to be weaned off by using the same influencer marketing and lifestyle approach that worked to attract them in the first place. The messaging this time around should be peer led to position vaping as socially unacceptable. 

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