Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
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Somewhere along the path towards our current culture of post-post-post-ad-infinitum irony, e-cigarette giant Juul has managed to mutate into a semi-sentient meme symbolizing the worst in lazy “millennial” marketing, peddling still-unknown health risks under the nebulous guise of hip, cool alternatives to your parents’ tobacco products. Now (and totally unsurprisingly), new court documents show their deeply cynical plan apparently worked even better than the comic book villains running the e-cigarette company could ever dream.

As Buzzfeed reports, prosecutors allege Juul execs totally knew what they were doing when various candy-flavored e-cig cartridges and hip ad campaigns started popping up on websites with audiences comprised primarily of teens, children, and even preschoolers. The result? Well, apparently over 1-in-4 high school seniors have vaped in the last month, according to governmental surveys.

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The lawsuit claims that Juul deliberately crafted its ads to feature young, cool-looking people, rejecting an alternative campaign aimed at older smokers who wanted to quit,” the article recounts, adding that the e-cig company even bought up ad space on sites like Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and even places called “AllFreeKidsCrafts.com, HelloKids.com, KidsGameHeroes.com, Games2Girls.com, GirlGames.com, and GirlsGoGames.com.” Of course, it’s anyone’s guess who visits those sites on any regular basis.

The Juul Ghouls (we’re trademarking this) deny the whole thing, of course, claiming they had no intention of getting the youth hooked on products containing dangerous amounts of nicotine. Back in 2018, cofounder James Monsees even claimed to the New York Times that children using Juul products was “antithetical to the company’s mission.”

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If it’s any consolation (it isn’t, really), the company hasn’t been doing too hot since the whole thing began facing scrutiny back in 2018. Juul has since laid off 16% of its workforce and plans to cut $1 billion in various costs over this year. And yet, why do we feel as though they’ll get off with a light slap on the wrist, at best?

Andrew Paul's work is recently featured by Rolling Stone, GQ, The Forward, and The Believer, as well as McSweeney's Internet Tendency and TNY's Daily Shouts.

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