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Juul pulls the plug on Facebook, Instagram activity; Twitter still active

The nation’s largest retailer of vapor products Juul Labs is no longer publishing content on its Facebook and Instagram sites amid a barrage of FDA allegations regarding teen-appealing marketing practices.  Its Twitter account remains active.   

In a Tuesday Facebook post, Juul even says that it will no longer respond to customer comments and private messages.  If customers want to engage with Juul on social media in any viable way, then they will be forced to travel to Twitter.   Meanwhile, the company further promises to crackdown on third-party vendors who promote Juul products using kid-friendly advertising. 

Related Article:  FDA raids Juul offices; seizes thousands of documents on kid-friendly marketing

News of the social media near-blackout comes via a Tuesday press release penned by CEO Kevin Burns announcing a new action plan to prevent teen vaping.   One of the perhaps most noteworthy points of the multi-step plan includes the pulling of certain vaping flavors including mango, fruit, creme, and cucumber from over 90,000 brick-and-mortar retailers nationwide.

Vape shops and tobacco stores which have a consistent reputation for effective management of age identification processes will be exempt.  The Juul website will also be accepting purchases, but the process is now a great deal more difficult and about to get even more frustrating in the coming weeks.

Juul enthusiasts must supply social security info before purchase

Juul also announced a revving up of the company’s age verification processes which includes the requirement for customers to provide the last four digits of their social security numbers along with their name, address, and date of birth.  A third-party vendor will verify the customer information.  By Jan 1, 2019, photo identification and two-factor authentication are also promised in future updated protocols rollouts. 

“By year’s end, our age verification system will include additional protections, such as two-factor authentication, which verifies a user’s identity through their phone number, and then requires a code sent to that phone to create an account. We will also add a real-time photo requirement to match a user’s face against an uploaded I.D.”

Juul’s new action plan is not an epiphany of clarity and social conscience. The new protocols are a response to a year-long barrage of disparaging comments from FDA officials including Commissioner Scott Gottlieb specifically targeting Juul’s allegedly “kid-appealing” marketing practices.

The FDA also claims to have in-house data indicating a 70 percent rise in teen vaping over the past year.   Since Juul makes up about 70 percent of the American market share of vapor products, Chief Gottlieb seems to be laying a significant portion of the blame at the doorstep of Juul Labs. 

Related Article:   Juul suspends brick-and-mortar sales, social media, but the worst is yet to come

Initial consumer reactions to Juul’s multi-prong announcement are decidedly mixed if not predominantly negative.  For example, Tina Jensen Ponder commented to Juul’s Facebook post about the company’s new business model by blasting the parents of child vapers for poor parenting practices.

“We know... parents can’t be held accountable for what their kids do and we sure can’t have the kids take any responsibility for their own actions... these days it’s always somebody else’s fault... sorry for Juul and every other company that has to bow to our ‘poor me’, entitled society...”

Some Juul lovers are taking issue with the demand to submit social security information before being able to purchase a simple vape pod.  Others like Chriss Bristow are annoyed with Juul for caving to threats by the FDA in the first place.

“Why would you guys bow to the FDA on this issue. You should have never allowed your products to be sold in convenience stores. It should have been a vape shop only distribution.”

The eyes of the vaping industry and Big Tobacco are watching the Juul issue closely.  Many e-commerce vendors of vaping products secretly wonder if they will be forced by the FDA to upgrade their age verification processes to match those of Juul.   Others fear that even harsher regulations are yet to come.  Furthermore, rumors are already running rampant that the FDA plans to prohibit the sales of menthol cigarettes and tobacco products.  Will menthol vape flavors be banned, as well? 

Related Article:  Vaping advocate Tony Abboud of VTA takes to CNBC to fight for adult vapers

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

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