E-Cig Maker Juul Won't Tempt Instagrammers With Models Anymore

(Bloomberg) -- Juul Labs Inc., the maker of the fastest growing e-cigarette brand in the U.S., said it will no longer feature models on its social media platforms as it tries to battle the perception its products are too appealing for underage smokers.

The San Francisco-based company will instead advertise using images of former smokers who have switched from combustible cigarettes to the Juul device, it said in a statement Thursday. The closely held company’s smoking devices resemble a USB thumb drive and have worried regulators and parents because they aren’t easily identified as a tobacco product.

“We believe we can both serve the 38 million smokers in the U.S. and work together to combat underage use -- these are not mutually exclusive missions,” Chief Executive Officer Kevin Burns said in the statement.

The change in social media strategy comes as the company looks to address young consumers’ surging demand for the product. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in April sent warnings to 40 retailers for selling Juul e-cigarettes to kids after a monthlong undercover sting operation, and the agency’s Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said he expects the crackdown to continue.

Juul also said it has built a dedicated internal team that focuses on reporting inappropriate content to Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for removal. The company “has partnered with several of these companies to proactively remove posts, pages, and unauthorized offers to sell product targeted at underage users,” it said. The efforts helped remove several unauthorized Instagram accounts on the brand, some of which had more followers than their official account.

As of April, Juul owned about 60 percent of U.S. e-cigarette market, according to Nielsen data, far surpassing that of tobacco giants.

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