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Juul, Philip Morris Sued Under Racketeer Act for Targeting Kids (bloomberg.com)
403 points by JumpCrisscross 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 303 comments

Juul had this radio campaign that was made up of 2 spots one after the other. The 1st spot would give you the pluses of the product followed by the warnings and how it was not for kids. The second spot would imply that what you had heard about Juul's minuses and warnings were false. They were not blatantly saying it but because of the way, the 2 spots were played one after the other you certainly got the idea. It was a bit surreal. It certainly minimized the minuses and warnings. In a way, it was brilliant since you could never prove that they were trying to undermind the warnings but it certainly had that effect. It's a shame they were using it to promote their products rather than a product that is good for you.

They have some brilliant marketing people working for them.

>>They have some brilliant marketing people working for them.

These people are not brilliant. They are utterly deceitful. To go along with this shit in this day and age is utterly contemptible. Imagine all the people and the planning and the brainstorming to come up with such a trick - how can any of them not feel really really bad and storm out of the room?

Oh yeah, profit.

I suspect there is a lot of cognitive dissonance involved. I remember having dinner with a developer who worked on pokie machines. He fully believed that there was nothing wrong with the machines and that people just needed to have self control. This is someone who's job involved programming the highly addictive things.

A lot of people simply don't care. I've met people who've worked for casinos and tobacco companies in management and decision making roles, and they are fully aware that they are trying to make people addicted and maximise profit on their habits.

I've asked them about the morality of it, and they're apathetic. It's not like some Wolf of Wall Street attitude where they enjoy ripping people off or making addicts, but just corporate apathy. The job pays well and they get to enjoy the finer things in life, so why should they care?

Isn’t consumer-internet hypergrowth built around the same properties? TikTok regularly has posts from teens describing staying up until dawn in the infinite scroll.

There are programmers right now creating websites, software and databases to dissemenate (heh) pornography.

It probably requires a different breed of humanity to actively choose to get involved in any vice-related industry.

Or maybe I will do it too given enough incentive.. who knows.

Counter-anecdote: I interned (many years ago) at Altria / Phillip Morris and found everyone I worked with to be very aware and conscious of the impact of their products. There was always a sense of finding that line between creating a good product that people enjoyed, and actively creating transparency and support around the risks created by that product.

the banality of evil prevails.

> I suspect there is a lot of cognitive dissonance involved

Edit : Some more context

I find it fascinating what people do to get rid of the dissonance. In India, we have a heavily regulated tobacco industry. In a debate , I remember someone from a cigarette manufacturing company (who don't manufacture any other tobacco products) commenting that relative to beedi [1] and chew-able tobacco, cigarettes are better because they are less harmful and bring in more revenues to the government!


From a public health perspective, I think Juul/vape products would be extremely helpful in a place like India.

Relevant, add Indonesia and China. https://www.economist.com/asia/2019/08/01/indonesia-seeks-to...

Despicable industry across the board.

This piqued my interest. Can you please explain how? From what I understand, Juul/vape products don't contain tar which is supposedly the worst offender in a cigarette. Is that what you meant?

Yes. Tobacco is huge in India and a major public health issue.

The danger of Juul is really yet to be determined -- but odds are extremely high that the public damage is far less than tobacco. These recent reports of lung collapse in minors all results from crap low quality thc vaping products, not Juul or even ecigs.

Also, vape products don't combust the liquid which should prevent inhaling of many different carcinogens.

Why is this "cognitive dissonance" and not someone simply having a different sense of morality than you? Is everyone with different moral values than you suffering from cognitive dissonance?

It might, but most people would agree that causing cancer intentionally is immoral. So cognitive dissonance is a valid assumption.

> I suspect there is a lot of cognitive dissonance involved.

This for sure. I had multiple friends work for Crispin Porter & Bogusky in the early 2010s. They're the main ad agency for companies like Burger King and Dominos. Great opportunity for them to begin their careers as designers, but at some point, all of them had to learn how to swallow selling diabetes to kids.

Maybe it's more of a philosophical internal vs external locus of control thing, but I don't find this one similar to tobacco. It's easy to use Dominos and Burger King "responsibly". I don't find anything unethical about their business and wouldn't feel bad working for them.

Tobacco I'm less sure about, since I don't really know of anyone who uses it "responsibly".

I think it might be different if your boss is telling you to design an advertisement to target 4-8 year olds with junk food ads.

Not for me, since I don't think it's unreasonable for a 4-8 year old to have Burger King. They just can't have it all the time, but it's a nice treat.

I don't see that as the same at all. They're providing a necessary service. People need to eat, they don't need to gamble or smoke.

Burgers and Pizza aren't the healthiest food in the world, but they're not the worst either. A typical burger consists of bread, meat and salad. There's nothing inherently wrong with any of those things.

I worked for dominos and I sold pizza to adults

Is there anything wrong with building pokie machines? Should they not be available for people who are able to play them responsibly?

I believe it's up to the government to regulate these things and ensure fair business practice.

The old saying goes that if mankind were angels we would need no governments. So saying the govt. ought to do something is functionally saying something is wrong with making the machines.

Absolutely not, suggesting that the government should regulate gambling and responsible gaming has nothing to do with building the machines outright.

As I said, these machines should be available if you can use them responsibly, the government should dictate policy that gambling operators should adhere by to ensure that users don't take things overboard.

Blaming the engineer who built the machine makes for an easy scapegoat, of course, but if the issue isn't addressed on a societal scale, there will always be another engineer to replace him.

The issue is that in this case they're specifically and willfully being engineered to foster irresponsible behavior.

>Blaming the engineer who built the machine makes for an easy scapegoat, of course, but if the issue isn't addressed on a societal scale, there will always be another engineer to replace him.

We can still say theft is bad regardless of the legal enforcement around theft. Some things are just morally wrong.

> We can still say theft is bad regardless of the legal enforcement around theft. Some things are just morally wrong.

I have to assume that your perspective is being coloured by personal experience. At this point, your argument is simply: "Building pokie machines is bad because I think it's bad". Sorry, but I disagree with that, as stated before, they should be available to those who can use them responsibly.

Sure. Let's make meth available to kids too while we're at it. Why expect social or moral responsibility from people at all?

To give a counter example, I think we can easily agree that government should regulate vehicles being driven on public roads and yet we don't mean to imply that there is something wrong with making vehicles to be driven on public roads.

We can say, however, that there is something wrong with making vehicles that are inherently unsafe when on public roads. That's more in line with making products to foster addiction or compel people to behave in ways that are against their best interests.

Brilliant and morally acceptable are definitely two different things

True, but average people with nefarious morals might look comparatively brilliant because the scope of total things they can and are willing to do is greater, whereas decent people would just self-select out of those activities.

Additionally, and tragically, because they work in a field with a psychological cost, their market wages are higher to compensate, meeting a second metric simple folk use to judge merit/competency.

And so outsiders look in and say "brilliant", when really it's just a bunch of otherwise average performers, paid well, willing to do what others won't and open to a greater palette of possible actions because of it.

To quote BR from thank you for smoking: "We don't sell Tic Tacs for Christ's sake. We sell cigarettes! And they're cool and available and addictive. The job is almost done for us!"

True, but we shouldn't celebrate brilliance when it's applied to do morally reprehensible things, like the OP was doing (intended or not).

How could one possess "exceptional clarity and agility of intellect" and then not apply it to moral questions?

The Orthogonality Thesis[1][2] states that the ethics of a given mind is orthogonal to its intelligence.

[1] https://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Orthogonality_thesis [2] https://www.fhi.ox.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/Orthogonality_An...

It's part of the mind either way, and a "brilliant person" isn't referring to just their intelligence. E.g. nobody with empathy would call even a highly intelligent doctor torturing and experimenting on prisoners "brilliant", without any qualifiers or caveats.

Moral questions require empathy. If you have no empathy, moral questions only interest you to the extent that they imply potential benefits for you.

Plus morality is highly subjective and beliefs on what is moral varies by individual.

Lacking empathy is a defect of the mind I would say, and clarity refers to the whole of it, just like health refers to all of it. A person who has healthy fingernails but has cancer isn't healthy, and a person that excels at specific technial problems, but isn't even bad, but completely absent, when it comes to other very basic ones, isn't brilliant.

> morality is highly subjective

And the word "brilliant" is not? "Highly" is just padding: Morality is subjective, and so is everything else, ultimately. It's not a magically different kind of thing to think about, it's just one of the more basic ones.


> These people are not brilliant. They are utterly deceitful.

these two things are not mutually exclusive. one implies intelligence/skill, the other implies honesty/sound ethical principles.

I think that's only true if a) "brilliant" is seen as a neutral term, and b) there's no relationship between intelligence and ethics. But I think both of those are false.

If you look at the the synonyms, it's clear that "brilliant" has strong positive connotations. And a lot of ethics are essentially recognizing that actions which might be rewarding in the short term are in the long term detrimental.

Totally disagree. People like Mao, Stalin, Hitler, etc were brilliant men. They were evil, but they were brilliant. Ted Kazcynski and many other criminals are also considered brilliant.

I think they were intelligent, sure. But as I said, I think brilliant has a positive connotation, where intelligent is more neutral.

Mao, Stalin, and Hitler weren't brilliant at anything except being ambitious, amoral, and rather deluded. Their only real talents were a flair for populist rhetoric and a knack for brutally eliminating and repressing political opposition using methods that morally normal people recoil from.

None was particularly effective as a military commander - which is something we should be grateful for, because if the Nazis had been ruled by someone with the military skills of Napoleon or Julius Caesar we'd all be fluent in German and xenophobia.

In fact they all did huge physical and psychological damage to their countries - something a genuinely brilliant political leader would have avoided.

I looked at the synonyms and I have to disagree with your opinion. Can you elaborate on which synonyms gave you this impression?

When I search Google for "brilliant" it gives these: "gifted, talented, virtuoso, genius, accomplished, ingenious, masterly, inventive, creative; intelligent, bright, clever, smart, astute, acute, brainy, intellectual, profound; skillful, able, expert, adept, elite, superior, crack, choice, first-class, first-rate, excellent; educated, scholarly, learned, erudite, cerebral; precocious". It cites that to english.oxforddictionaries.com.

And maybe three of those could lean towards morality. Someone could be a gifted sniper, a talented warmonger, an evil genius, an accomplished pick pocket, a creative criminal, an educated Ponzi scheme operator, or a profound mass murderer.

My point is that it's not a socially neutral term. Those are almost all positive associations in the synonyms.

I also think most of your phrases aren't things people would actually write, in that the adjective tone is dissonant with the noun. The one exception is evil genius, where I think the dissonance is the point.

Probably the synonyms in definition 3 here, like splendid, marvelous, wonderful, awesome? https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english-thesaur...

I'm seeing this sort of thing often these days. People absolutely insist on taking a moral stand on the flimsiest of situations. Not everything is a value judgement for Christ's sake, sometimes words just mean what they mean!

Brilliant is quite commonly used to mean "very good" or "excellent" in the UK, so it is not unreasonable to assume there is some value judgement implied.

Being “very good at marketing” also doesn’t mean “honest at marketing”.

I too would prefer it if every professional had the same moral compass you and I have; but that is a separate issue. Hence why people can be both successful and arguably immoral.

Marketing is pretty much dishonest by definition.

This isn't true, doing good product placement or publishing accurate test results is also marketing but is not dishonest.

Granted, modern marketing is rarely applied this way so in practice almost all marketing is dishonest, but that's not what "by definition" means.

I don't know what "good" product placement is, but selectively publishing accurate test results only if they support your cause is dishonest, yes. And if you have no demonstrated conflict of interest and commit to publishing your results regardless of what they say, then that is not "marketing" - it's "research".

Marketing is dishonest "by definition", because its purpose is to persuade, not inform.

Is persuasion dishonest by definition?

Good point. Not necessarily. But persuasion of something you do not yourself believe is dishonest, and persuasion masquerading as neutral information is dishonest.

Really the question is - whose interest are you purporting to serve by communicating with me? Yours, or mine? And whose interest are you actually serving?

well, surely the definition is something like telling the market a product exists and/or creating that market.

which I think is quite reasonable.

it's the stuff people do and call it marketing and advertising that is dishonest - trying to make people want something despite it not being in their best interest.

once upon a time, I think we trusted businesses because we saw most business was honest. and now much less so, since we see most business is dishonest now.

Not really. It’s just the memorable examples that are. An advert in your local paper saying “Handyman Bob, ${phonenumber}” is fine. However once you start to scale things the rewards for dishonesty become greater (as does your budget to pay for experienced professionals who understand which marketing tricks work).

It's not. There is a commercial for a hospital next to my house. On it is a photo of one of their best doctors (very well known and respected), saying "I work for this hospital because they enable my success". 100% honest. I wouldn't know he works at that hospital without that commercial and would never visit him without it. I am thankful.

That is actually a good example of deceptive marketing. It happens that you want to see this doctor, so you don't notice th problem: you now have an association in your mind between the reputation of the doctor you know and respect and the hospital itself. You have no idea if other doctors for other specialties are comparable in skill. You have no idea if the hospital charges exaggerated prices, how their services are in general etc - the commercial is simply meant to appeal to your positive emotions about this particular doctor. And they didn't even have to lie about anything to obtain the effect.

I don't live in a healthcare system where any of this matters. I live in a universal healthcare (insurance) country. I can go to any hospital and any doctor "for free" at any time. I don't care about their other doctors in the slightest, I have my list of trustable doctors and where they work based on personal merit. I always pre-check my doctors on the internet before I visit them. I don't even know the names of the hospitals I visit, to be honest (often it's just town name anyways). However most often the hospital nearest to me is the one I visit because the standard of care is good enough - now I will go a little (2 km) further to visit this one. I wouldn't go more than 5 km out of my way to visit a doctor (obvious exceptions apply).

I'm confused - you knew of this doctor, you knew you wanted to see him, but for some reason you couldn't use google to work out where he works?

Where I live (Czech Republic) we don't do healthcare like that. We often go to the one available at the hospital of our choice (often the nearest one) or the one our practician recommends. We don't travel long distances to visit doctors. Now that he works near me (less than 5 km out of my way), I will switch my hospital of choice - if I didn't know, I wouldn't.


Not at all, just don't assume that everyone lives in the USA

I diddn't assume causation was implied. Your interpreter reads "." with a value of " because" while mine read "." with a value of " however". If we assume a single meaning value of "." then our two different outcomes (because,however) are mutually exclusive. They are not, however, collectively exhaustive. It may have been interpreted litaraly, as punctuation without prusumption of exclusitivity.

>These people are not brilliant.

This reminds me of the following quote.

"After all, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named did great things — terrible, yes, but great."


It seems our language has some aversion to recognizing desirable traits in undesirable people. Almost like recognizing the trait is seen as praising the trait and praising the trait is seen as praising the person.

Could tweaking the profit function result in a better alignment? For example, issue a fine for every confirmed sale that reached someone in the wrong age group. Upon the return of the unused product direct the proceeds of the fine back to the person that made the purchase.

Contribute the fine towards smoking cessation programs. A teenager doesn't need their money returned to them if they get caught buying tobacco products.

Need? No, I guess they don't. But if we want to incentive the teenagers to report, monetary incentives seems to work.

It would result in perverse incentives.

Teenager willingly buys e-cig for $50, reports e-cig company for $150 fine, then returns the unused e-cig in exchange for the proceeds of the fine. Even without a refund, they just made $100.

Is that such a perverse incentive? It is roughly equivalent to the regulator hiring the teenager for $100 at the company's expense to check if the company is following the rules about not selling to teenagers, except the teenager only gets paid if the company violates the rules.

Why is that a perverse incentive? If the baseline is that it’s illegal to sell such things to kids, then this seems like a roundabout way to hire kids as a forcing mechanism to make companies really careful not to do this.

Look at their website. They actually think they have a mission to cure mankind from cigarettes.

They're on a mission to make money.

The marketing copy on the website is just fluff in support of that goal.

They're willing to sell you both the problem they're trying to fix and the fix for the problem they sold you. Talk about modern capitalism in a nutshell.

The company that produces "radar guns" for police to track motor vehicle speeds also produces the "radar detector" for civilians to be wary of police speed traps.

Is it any weirder than essentially every American turning a blind eye to climate change? Or even worse the ones who claim to care but do nothing to change their life and put in no effort towards changing society at large?

To me it’s not weird at all. People can ignore an awful lot if it doesn’t affect them directly and immediately. It’s even easier if they benefit in some way.

“It’s for profit” is a knee-jerk, relatively thought-free answer.

There is a deeper answer, and the door to it is seeing that different people can have very different underlying beliefs and motivations, which are not necessarily morally better or worse, just different.

What motivations could those be, making as many people as possible addicted and sick?

The former are usually called drug dealers and the latter psychopaths.

Or maybe they genuinely believe that their products are safer than cigarettes and believe that they are helping people by giving them an alternative.

Given that cigarettes literally cause cancer, it's very hard to create a product that is not safer than that.

> it was brilliant since you could never prove that they were trying to undermind the warnings

actually, many times you can prove these things. produce the contract showing that juul paid for one ad to run after the other and they are really screwed. Or prosecutors who have a spine could easily just record the number of instances of the ads running together vs. separately and use that as evidence they are not intended to be separate ads. (It might even be possible to subpoena radio stations for their records that would show this).

Generally, judges don't take kindly to the type of "brilliance" that would be going into court and claiming "But they are two separate ads, so we weren't being misleading" if Juul indeed arranged for them to run one after the other.

>Generally, judges don't take kindly to the type of "brilliance"

I see this claim constantly mentioned, how judges really dislike loopholes and such, yet at the same time it seems like lawyers specialize in doing just this. It feels like there are some 'gotchas' that work in court and others that do nothing except anger the court and lawyers are the only ones allowed to know which is which.

> They have some brilliant marketing people working for them.

FWIW I hate people like that. If that's the best you can do with your creativity then you're no better than a scientist that works on chemical weapons.

I think the problem is more complex here, as these are usually not in-house marketing people who have willingly chosen to market cigarettes, but rather people working for external marketing agencies for whom promoting Philip Morris' products is just one of many projects imposed on them. They haven't really chosen to market tobacco, but would probably have a hard time objecting to this one particular project, if they otherwise like the job.

If marketing tobacco products isn't where one draws the line, where would the line be drawn? We must not give a pass to people who work on bad things simply because their boss told them to do so.

... or worse biological weapons. If we don't want very smart people working on things like this then total moral condemnation is the way to go.

then total moral condemnation is the way to go

Indeed. If people understood that with Phillip Morris or Facebook on their CVs they would be unemployable afterwards, they might think twice.

It's not like they are bad people who set out in the morning to make the world a worse place. If you want change, you must question what makes people behave that way. The extreme focus on economic success of individuals combined with a lack of solid social security is what my intuition tells me drives people to do things at work that damage other people. Is there research about this?

How would you account for people self-persuading themselves when they take the job, and know to keep that belief alive for self-preservation ?

We have inate abilities to model reality in a way that helps us, not just in a cognitive dissonance way, but in strategic ways as well.

It's the classic "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.". It's wildly viewed as a skill, and in a lot of cultures marked as a sign of adulthood to be able to deceive yourself to overcome your primary reaction.

For many people the choices are limited - do work that harms others, or suffer harm yourself.

People whose morals are strong enough to suffer the harm and deal with the uncertainty of trying to find morally-responsible work aren't that common. And as soon as you have family responsibilities, the pressures increase.

The underlying problem is that compliant behaviours and attitudes are rewarded, sometimes generously, while dissident attitudes and behaviours are punished - often in ways that imply the dissident brought misfortune on themselves.

There's absolutely no mainstream reinforcement of the suggestion that many aspects of the culture this happens in are toxic and have a skewed moral foundation, and plenty of reinforcement of its opposite - that the culture is healthy, generous, open, and perhaps even the best of all possible cultures.

Is there research about this?

Yup - we might say that as a topic, it's been discussed throughout the ages. For example there are the findings of this guy Paul the Apostle (as summarized by an unknown transcriptionist sometime in the 1st or 2nd century):

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

-- 1 Timothy 6:10

> It's a shame they were using it to promote their products rather than a product that is good for you.

Those don't need to be promoted, usually.

Do you believe the consumption of fruits and vegetables should be promoted?

Why not?

Is there somewhere I can listen to these two spots?

They have some sociopaths focusing purely on making a buck at the expense of people's lives working for them, would be the way I look at. Brilliant marketing to me is just abusing our evolutionary baggage and manipulation.

In Australia here, gambling is a bit of a problem across the country, but the governments make so much tax revenue it is allowed to continue.

I know someone who works for one of the big betting companies here. He writes software that aids in direct targeting of problem gamblers based on their social profiles and anything else they can get their hands on.

Pushing drugs is bad but pushing gambling is totally legal.

Suffice to say I'm not a huge fan of said bloke, I think you're selling your soul to the devil, so to speak.

I hope he is hopeless.

Well ya. When your company's product is a net minus for society then you have to wonder about the ethics of everyone involved. Ya, they're doing it for the bux with little care for the consequences.

I honestly think that the People choosing to work for big tobbaco should be killed. All of them. They purposely push poison onto us.

Seems a bit extreme. I imagine that one could easily extend this logic to apply to almost any group. Anyone making anything but the healthier foods tastier or cheaper. Any innovation that enables laziness. People who build elevators. Pretty much all of IT.

"a buck at the expense of people's lives working for them"

their employees? any source?

I believe that the phrasing made the sentence confusing.

"They have some sociopaths working for them whose focus is purely on making a buck at the expense of consumer's lives"

hmm, makes more sense, thank you. although nicotine is less harmful than cigarettes, the spirit of that comment rings true: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4363846/

My father went to high school in the 1930's, and cigarettes were called "coffin nails" at the time.

The first thing every doctor would advise sick patients to do was quit smoking.

Every doctor who autopsied a dead smoker could see how bad smoking was for you. I remember seeing a smoker's lung in a jar in the 1960's. It was black and rotten. It was terrifying.

The idea that nobody knew cigs were bad for you until the 1960's is completely false. It was common knowledge.

I think you're missing the point. When the evidence started to mount, there was an orchestrated campaign to mislead. https://www.who.int/tobacco/media/en/TobaccoExplained.pdf

“all-synthetic aerosol to replace tobacco smoke, if necessary … I know this sounds like a wild programme, but I’ll bet that the first company to produce a cigarette claiming a substantial reduction in tars and nicotine … will take the market.” (Philip Morris,1958)

It's interesting that idea is exactly what we are talking about today.

RJR tried doing smokeless cigarettes in the 80s and 90s but they apparently tasted like a fart. They still sold them up until 2015. It seems to work somewhat like a hookah, a hot carbon tip is used to heat air before it passes over the tobacco. Supposedly these kinds of cigarettes were the only ones you could still consume in the RJR office.

My favourite slogan is "More doctors smoke Camel". Kind of mindboggling by today's standards.

People in 2060 are going to look back to the 1990s and say "The idea that nobody knew climate change was bad", "Every climate scientist how look at the data could see how bad the warming would be"

There's a complex public discourse, where even relatively small numbers of bad actors can really fuck up the whole situation.

Great comparison. Diffuse and delayed consequences that would require a "painful" change of habits now to prevent. In a way cigarettes are an easier problem to solve because the consequences are personal and personally preventable. No "drop in the bucket" collective action problem.

Can you share a good summary of evidence which supports human caused climate change so I can have better discussions?

It was common knowledge. But then the constant bombardment with advertising showing the great social advantages of being a smoker. And so many people fell along the wayside, I just buried another one at the ripe old age of 59.

The peer pressure to smoke and drink was absolutely enormous and I really don't hold it against my classmates for folding. In that sense being in the 'out' group of the class made it easier to resist the pressure, though some of those kids would go completely overboard thinking that if only they out-drank and out-smoked the clique they'd be let in.

I went to high school in the 70's, too. All the kids, including the smokers, knew it would kill you. Cigarette advertising on TV had ceased by then.

One of my friends went to the doctor complaining of shortness of breath, the doctor told him to quit smoking.

Interestingly, at college (still in the 70's) pretty much none of the students smoked. The handful that did got a lot of peer pressure to quit.

Some of my dates were smokers, but none of them pressured me to smoke.

My father told me about chain smokers in B-17's in raids over Germany. The cigarette would not stay lit at 30,000 feet. So the crewman would take a breath from the oxygen mask, blow on the cigarette which would then burn like a torch, take a puff, put the mask back on for another quick breath, blow on the cigarette before it went out, etc. He felt sorry for them. I didn't think to ask him what he thought of cigarettes and pure oxygen on an airplane overloaded with gas and bombs (thinking of Apollo 1).

And now apply that terrifying feeling of seeing the black lung to living in modern cities.


Quality of air in established modern cities has been vastly improving in the last decades [1] and is subjected to much scrutiny nowadays. I doubt many cities ever had a comparable effect to smoking 10 cigarettes a day.

[1] https://sci-hub.se/10.1039/C5FD00212E

That's a great blog post. But per the article, this is a RICO suit. Maybe it's not a good one, I'm not qualified to judge. But that's the complaint. And this industry has been successfully sued (by the DoJ) under RICO in the past, so it's not without precedent.

Thanks for posting this. I was interested to see what was the cause for the tobacco companies being liable under RICO, and this article, https://www.publichealthlawcenter.org/topics/commercial-toba... , had a pretty good overview.

The main point seems to be that the tobacco companies fraudulently covered up what they knew about the dangers of smoking (don't know all the details but assuming this fraudulent activity falls under one of the specific "racketeering activity" crimes).

I'm definitely not a lawyer, but for Juul, would seem to me that it's not enough just to call some of their products "Cool Cucumber" or whatever else can appeal to children, but would need to point to some specific fraudulent activity that Juul engaged in.

As an aside, tobacco marketing was incredibly scummy even by the low standards of the advertising industry. I once happened to chat with some people who maintain the library of internal tobacco industry materials: https://www.industrydocuments.ucsf.edu/tobacco/

They had horror story after horror story. The one that sticks with me is them building a campaign to target developmentally disabled adults, because they were especially loyal addicts once hooked.

IIUC, the traditional tobacco industry is disallowed from marketing to minors. I don't know if those regulations apply to Juul, but if they do, producing advertisements targeted at underage audiences while claiming they're for adults might qualify.

Looking at the Joe Camel case, it doesn't appear to have hinged on "tobacco" per se:

"The FTC charged that R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, the seller of Camel cigarettes, promoted an addictive and dangerous product through a campaign that was attractive to those too young to purchase cigarettes legally."


It's be interesting to see the "War on Drugs" shift to focus on (or at least include) tobacco and related products. ;)

It has happened in at least two instances that I can think of: Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is now advocating for a variety of policies not always oriented around drunk driving[1].

Second, the State of California's Department of Public Health is currently running both an anti-vaping campaign, and a smoking cessation campaign, without linking vaping to a reduction in tobacco smoking. In short, they have transformed from anti-tobacco to anti-nicotine.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mothers_Against_Drunk_Driving#...

2. https://www.flavorshookkids.org/, https://stillblowingsmoke.org/, https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CCDPHP/DCDIC/CTCB/Pages/Cal...

I was more thinking "deregister the tobacco companies and put all of their employees in prison. With life (maybe death?) sentences for the executives and senior management".

Just to get it in line with the treatment of other War On Drugs substances.

I mean, why should tobacco get special treatment when the other ones don't? ;)

I've never heard of anybody suggesting tobacco nor nicotine be scheduled under the Controlled Substances Act.

Yeah, but it's kind of a shame. ;)

The whole reason that blog post exists is that a lot of terrible RICO suits are filed for things which do not in any way meet the legal definition, and the press often fail to question their merits - especially ones fitting narratives they like.

Yes. "It's not RICO dammit" means "the suit that has been filed will likely not succeed on the RICO claim" or "what you're talking about does not meet the RICO elements", not "that suit was not a RICO suit".

Although in that case, it was criminal RICO. Lesser burden of proof, but with civil RICO the plaintiff has to also prove causation.

> Let me answer that by telling you the elements of civil RICO — that is, the list of things a plaintiff would have to prove to win a RICO case.

> To win, a plaintiff would have to prove (1) conduct, (2) of an enterprise, (3) through a pattern, (4) of racketeering activity called "predicate acts," (5) causing injury to the plaintiff’s "business or property."

I think the fact that the tobacco industry has already been sued under this law makes it more likely that it also applies to this case

If somebody wants to see a real RICO case, Palantir vs. I2 case for a great example.

Every journalist and editor should read that and not even bother writing up civil RICO suits unless you can get an actual lawyer to tell you that particular one is different for some reason.

with that knowledge it makes me want to do a not-ad campaign just to find plaintiffs that want to fund my retirement making shaky RICO suits for them

I would even through in the subsequent PR for free

Godspeed. These companies have proven themselves morally reprehensible time and time again. I'd love to see serious criminal charges for the executives though.

Then call your representative and tell them to pass a law that makes e-cigarettes illegal.

I'm not sure that's the solution - it removes a useful tool for curbing cigarette use. They're simultaneously cheaper, have no lingering smell, and (anecdata) are healthier.

Regulators were too slow to ban advertisements of these devices; especially those aimed at kids. Furthermore, decades of anti-smoking media has removed any traces of 'cool' from cigarettes. e-cigarettes are too new to have this cultural benefit.

But, you're right. There's a hooker in the closet. Remove the 'cool' from e-cigarettes. We could ban attractive flavours, and keep dull, boring ones.

Besides, there's logistical issues with making them illegal. What to do with the addicted population? Push them into cigarettes (cheapest option)? Use public funds for replacement programs (expensive; low political will)?

And finally, motivated teens will obtain whatever they want. Any such demand is supplied in an urban environment. This stuff is easy to make, easy to hide, and easy to import from other provinces/states.

I don't see the point of banning particular flavors. People use them for the nicotine. I haven't heard anyone clamoring to ban flavored alcohol, which is another life-destroying poison product that's illegal for children.

While not a ban, alco-pop taxes are indeed a thing.

They apply to flavoured alcoholic beverages which usually appeal more to young people.


There used to be campaigns to ban flavored (fruity) alcoholic drinks in the UK, but first, we have a different idea of maturity (an 18 year old can purchase alcohol), and second, by now people in their 40s grew up with them. There was a significant increase in the tax on them in 1997, which led to products like flavored cider.


I think that comparison is fair to a point.

My suggestion to ban particular flavourings is related more to the fact that cigarettes taste nasty. It would be helpful to be able to make comparisons here from a marketing standpoint. Not to mention the crazy flavourings some shops create, with little regard to health. I'm sure there's more fruitful avenues than this one.

As for nicotine, you'd be surprised. My local shop has a healthy stock of no-nic juices available. I presume the intended market is people dropping from 3mg -> 0mg, but I imagine the real audience is wider.

As for flavoured alcohol, I think we just have a different relationship with alcohol. It's a more widely used drug which we've consumed before the dawn of civilization. A lot of people are perfectly fine with young adults drinking it (see: not NA). And of course, flavoured alcohol exists to make spirits palatable.

On a side note, I'm curious about your wording. Did you intend to evocative with the usage of 'life-destroying poison' immediately followed by 'children'? That's certainly an extreme way to position an argument. I'm sure you're acting in good faith, but it's just not in my cultural sensibilities.

I've only ever heard arguments for the banning of flavored e-juice in the context of them appealing to children, which is why I mentioned them that way. For me personally, I find both alcohol and tobacco disgusting but I don't see any constitutional basis for government regulation of what informed adults put into their body, so long as it doesn't pose a danger to others.

It's crazy to say that adults don't also enjoy candy or sweets.

But i think there's a big difference between government regulation of what informed adults can put in their body, and what corporations can do in the pursuit of profit. Regulating the latter is reasonable, and has a heading in the US Constitution in something like tobacco, since its not local.

> ... a useful tool for curbing cigarette use ... and (anecdata) are healthier.

Healthier than cigarettes? Impossible! Cigarettes must be one of the healthiest things in the world.

Haha, that's right. But I'm too cautious to make claims that I haven't researched, or hasn't been researched.

I'd like to see some more concrete studies and maybe even safer product designs. Juul itself is a predatory but brilliant product. It's simple and therefore hard to fuck up. Meanwhile my early misadventures into e-cigarettes wasn't very healthy (burning coils, etc). Thankfully I learned over time.

Just about the last thing the US needs is another drug related black market problem. The US should generally be liberalizing on drug access and use, not making more recreational drugs illegal.

There is a reasonable action between making it illegal and having e-cigarettes without any restrictions at all.

its mind boggling that the same jurisdictions that want to make e-cigarettes illegal want to make shrooms and marijuana legal. absolutely mind boggling.

Marijuana and mushrooms are not that harmful compared to e-cigarettes. It's a rational approach.

You're arguing smoking marijuana (burning it and inhaling the byproducts) is less harmful than e-cigarettes.

I highly doubt that.

Didn't that story about a mysterious rise in lung disease tied to vaping a couple of weeks ago implicate marijuana as the cause?

No, it implicated tobacco/nicotine based products. And it sounds like something significantly more dangerous than the usual vape products are involved. People have been vaping for years without being hospitalized their first few months of usage. This sticks out as highly unusual, regardless of your views on vape safety overall.

This is a case of particularly bad reporting. These cases are all related not to nicotine but to THC and other drugs being tainted.


I heard THC technically it could indicate a lack of quality control in their products or delivery mechanism. Like bathtub gin for blindness - while alcohol isn't healthy the methanol was the actual cause. Expired vaccines have killed people for instance.

Presumably they believe the problem is things that are addictive rather than things that are drugs.

Nobody is proposing a ban on nicotine gum and patches. Any actual addicts will be able to get their fix. So a ban on another nicotine delivery system doesn't seem to me like a big risk for, say, Colombian cartels smuggling in black-lab vape cartridges.

If you've ever tried to quit smoking, you'd know that the gums and patches don't work, which is why vape pens have been so successful at getting smokers to quit after decades of patches and gums failing. It's not the amount of nicotine in your blood that matters, it's the delivery mechanism. Inhaling nicotine gets it to your brain faster, which creates the pleasurable experience. Patches just make you feel shitty and burn your skin, while vape pens recreate the sensation of smoking with an order of magnitude less nasty shit in it. Nicotine salts based vapes like juul are even less damaging since the quantity of vapor is massively reduced compared to traditional vaping liquids. Juul may be a bunch of scumbags, but these conversations really irk me because there is a clear benefit to vaping as an alternative to smoking. If you can figure out how to curb teen vaping without telling me I can't use a juul because it's maybe kinda bad for me, I'm all for it. If the proponents of banning vapes want to ban alcohol first, I'll be less skeptical of their intentions.

i think you haven't research the problem at all.

banning never works. no circumstance makes banning stuff acceptable. you can however limit access. otherwise you're just exploiting your own fears to drive people into doing your bidding.

You seem to be mixing up a factual claim with what is almost a religious one.

Banning stuff does in fact work. The Consumer Products Safety Commission has banned all sorts of stuff: https://www.cpsc.gov/Regulations-Laws--Standards/Regulations...

Despite that, Mexican cartels aren't selling shoddy cribs and high chairs on the streetcorner.

Automotive regulators have banned a wide variety of unsafe things as well, but people aren't sneakily removing their dashboard padding and the like.

It's true that banning some things doesn't work, and I'm generally against drug prohibitions. But I think banning Juul will probably work just fine, because we aren't banning the substance entirely, just a delivery mechanism.

sorry that i didn't make it more clear, but in the context of the discussion i thought it was obvious i was referring to addictive substances. it appears it wasn't obvious.

i would say that a ban on juul but not on tobacco would be (and is) a joke. and since we're banning stuff, alcohol would be another one.

yes, the worst thing about the hitman trade is that it's unregulated so you can't get your money back if they kill you instead since the other guy offered a better rate. better to legalize it so these disputes can be resolved in court. and to keep regulations to a minimum so the industry can continue to innovate exciting new options.

i completely agree that the ban on murder for hire has been a total failure and should be rescinded immediately.

how's the war on drugs going?

Then ban advertising of ANY kind for tabacco-related products. No cool kids or influencers, no flashy magazines, no outdoor ads and so on.

I'm 100% on board with this.

i have no problem with this.

>Colombian cartels smuggling in black-lab vape cartridges


So kids go back to smoking non-e cigarettes like in the good ole days?

In recent years, teen vaping rates have increased far more than teen smoking rates have dropped. https://www.politifact.com/virginia/statements/2019/jun/12/t...

That still doesn’t excuse making e-cigarettes illegal and not normal cigarettes as well. Also, you have to compare against marijuana and other drugs as well if we are accounting for what teens are doing to act out.

Sure it does, we (should) decide policy based on what is possible, not what adheres to some God-given set of moral consistency conditions. A ban on e-cigarettes is probably politically feasible, a ban on cigarettes is not.

Anyway, I still disagree with banning e-cigarettes because it seems they're so much less harmful than regular cigarettes that even if the marketing was so effective that everyone started vaping, I'm not sure the harms would outweigh the gains from smokers quitting.

Maybe, but the point is that banning e-cigarettes won't result in all the e-cigarette users going back to normal cigarettes. E-cigarettes have grown the market, not simply captured a subset of existing smokers.

I'd also point out that the problem isn't "acting out". It's the act of smoking cigarettes itself, which is objectively harmful. Marijuana is much safer. E-cigarettes seem to be as well, but the jury is still out.

There are many who have quit cigarettes that rely on e cigarettes to keep from relapsing. Banning e-cigarettes would just screw them like crazy. As someone who had to quit cold turkey, I can appreciate how hard this is, and how easy relapsing is.

Even if the market is apart is partially grown, peer pressure and acting out was going to get many of those teens on something. If it is just vaping, that is much better than cigarettes, marijuana, heroin, meth, ... really, perfect is still the enemy of good.

I'm not sure that situation was worse, considering how much more accessible e-cigarettes are in comparison. The experience of smoking was a big deterrent to nicotine addiction.

The primary health problems of smoking aren't caused by nicotine, but everything else that's in a cigarette.

Alcohol equivalent of switching from cigarettes to e-cigarettes would be switching from drinking shoe polish to drinking regular, bottled liquor.

It’s more like comparing a wine cooler to vodka.

No. The point of my comparison was highlighting that nicotine itself only gives you addiction, primarily when mixed with other stuff. It's that other stuff - present in regular cigarettes, absent in e-cigarettes - that damages your lungs and gives you cancer.

I don’t think we disagree, vodka is hard liquor and will kill you, a wine cooler just has a touch of alcohol and probably the sugar is more harmful overall.

I misunderstood the meaning of "wine cooler", and mistakenly thought you just meant 1/3 of power for the same volume. Sorry.

Still, the shoe polish analogy was meant to convey that the harmful substances are incidental, and e-cigs give you smoking experience and nicotine without them.

That's a false dichotomy, to say the least. There's a much different public view of e-cigarettes and non-e. Moreover, smoking bans are currently more widespread than vaping bans [1] - in many places, vaping is legal in situations where smoking is not.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_vaping_bans_in_the_Uni...

One step ahead of you buddy. :)

Or maybe call your representative and pass a law that makes parents more responsible.

I'm sorry, how does that help? This case is about targeting minors and what you are suggesting infringes upon the basic human rights of an informed adult to make their own decisions about what they put in their body. Any legislation should only have the goal of ensuring citizens are informed.

Serious question: why just the executives? I know everybody needs a job to get by, but there’s an expression for getting by by getting kids hooked on harmful drugs: being a shitbum drug dealer. There should be some consequences when it comes to earning your living by damaging the health of children.

> Serious question: why just the executives

I never said 'just', but you've got to start somewhere and there is nowhere better to start than at the top. When people lower down the food chain are the first targets, there is a nasty tendency for the matter to stop there. (First rule of plumbing: shit flows downhill...)

Can’t disagree with you there. I don’t know how these people sleep at night. The taint should extend to any firm that consults for them. I don’t care how many adults really do use them as cessation devices, they are clearly intended to be used by children.

I mean - I feel like it's textbook that you start low and then roll the higher ups. But of course that would never be done seriously in a corporation.

The thing that get's me about Juul is that it's basically a bunch of marketing money and visual design piled on a product that's strictly worse that the vaping options that came before it.

The biggest thing vs a regular mech mod is that it has single use proprietary cartridges that you have to throw out afterwards, vs spending less money on a bottle of vape juice that will last for way longer.

"a product that's strictly worse that the vaping options that came before it."

this is false. the Juul product is a 3rd iteration of a long line of vaping innovations. Juul was far ahead of their competitors when they launched: small, practical, easy to use, great nicotine hit. they're so far ahead that most of their competitors now use the Juul model of selling a compact vape along with pre-filled pods.

So it's the Keurig + K Cup of the vape world?

That's just the Gillette of the coffee world.

Gillette is just the Levi Strauss of the personal care world.

Kind of. They're pushing big here in Indonesia by partnering with bars and supermarkets/minimarkets to make it more convenient for users to purchase their cartridges. Other e-liquids are only sold through e-commerce or specific hobby shops.

Isn’t there a claim that Juul popularized nicotine “salts” that are more satisfying than traditional vaping options for cigarette smokers?

As I understand it, yes. According to my friends who vape, Juul is still way ahead of everyone in the juice department. So much better they'll spend close to $60 a week on the stuff...

Pretty sure that's more expensive per volume than printer ink!

Pretty close to what I was paying as a pack-a-day cigarette smoker. They're copying the streaming TV subscription business model!

Yes, AFAIK Juul was the first to popularise it. Using salt-nics enables device makers to use lower-wattage devices for the same nicotine 'hit', and also reduces the vapor output. This results in smaller devices due to smaller battery and more convenient to use.

It appears they popularized nicotine salts, but you can get nicotine salt ejuice for use in standard mod/tanks setups.

I don't have any experience to assess if it is more satisfying or smoother but I believe Juul has used both those claims in their marketing.

From my experience it's not 'smoother' per se, but you can inhale as you would smoke (MtL or Mouth to Lung), while the standard mod/tanks setups tends to be inhaled as you would 'shisha' (DtL or direct to lung). It's also quicker to get the 'hit' as salt-nicotine is quicker to absorb by the body.

While you can do Mouth-to-Lung on a Juul (mainly for vape tricks such as ghosting or french inhaling)l, I'd say it's much more common to Direct-to-Lung inhale at least among young adult nicotine fiends who are dependent on the substance.

I've read, on HN, that Juul also has patents on nictoine salts that hit faster and don't last as long. e.g. the crack of nicotine.

You can buy third party compatible pods. It's pretty convenient compared to building coils, replacing pre-made coils, or even refilling a tank.

I see a couple different aspects here:

1. Targeting Kids. I don't see the targeting. Marketing a product as "cool"[1] is a valid tactic for the, say, 18–35 age demographic, too. Is there a way to market to 18-year-olds while actively dis-marketing to 17-year-olds? Serious question.

Anecdotally, the radio ads I hear for Juul are all testimonials from middle-aged smokers who switched. Which is not to say that they don't have other tactics, but this particular one can't be particularly attractive to teens.

2. Deceptive Marketing. Probably more legit, but not limited to tobacco. No marketing is going to tell you why not to use their product. Now, alcohol, nicotine, gambling, high fat/sugar foods, credit card debt, etc. should be held to a higher standard than, say, Forever 21.

[1] I.e., "social media posts glamorizing vaping", "flavors including mango, mint and creme brulee", "depicting the devices and those who use them as cool and sexy". Or from a sub-linked article, "mak[ing] it look cool and sleek".

They target a young audience on social media.

Also, the fact that you hear the ads on the radio makes teens not the target demographic. But here is a more in depth article: https://www.vox.com/2019/1/25/18194953/vape-juul-e-cigarette...

That's my point: of course they do (well, used to). A key demographic is 18–35. Ads portraying "happy, playful 20-something models" seems legit for that demographic, including using social media as a channel, where that demographic tends to be.

That young models, a sleek device, and social media is also attractive to the 13–17 demographic that Juul is being accused of illegally marketing to is impactful, but not damning in of itself.

So that goes back to my question: is there a way to market to 18–35 and actively not market to 13–18? Let's be clear: "teens" 18–19 and people in their early 20s are adults.

Otherwise, the proposed solution is not to market <35 at all... which seems to be exactly what Juul is doing.[1] So then the argument is that they used to, and that's good enough to cry foul.

All this comes back to "targeting". In my mind, it's very hard to draw a distinction between targeting 18–35 that happens to be attractive to 13–18 (because of course it does), and targeting 13–18. Then, you can argue whether incidental attraction is a "feature or a bug", and whether or not it was part of an insidious strategy all along.

[1] "[In 2018], Juul’s ads began to look more adult and conservative... with the slogan 'Make the switch,' the ads now feature testimonials from [people over 35]."

I’m not defending juul, but they shit down those accounts over a year ago and they don’t even portray young people in there ads anymore.

Moreover that Vox article completely makes up the 75% increase stat it cites. If you follow the citation and do the math, the survey which they don’t like to show a roughly 30% increase in the number of teens who had used any vaping product in the prior 30 days.

I don’t think anyone should use these products, but they’re clearly less bad than cigarettes. Also, this whole thing has the smell of a moral panic without a lot of actual substance.

> I don't see the targeting.



"Juul hired social media influencers — people with large followings on Instagram — to promote its products. It created hashtags — #juul, #juulvapor, #switchtojuul, #vaporized — that the influencers blasted out to their followings, often featuring images of young people Juuling, or doing tricks or jokes with their device."

Impossible to design a campaign like this without understanding how many millions of teenagers follow Instagram influencers.

> Is there a way to market to 18-year-olds while actively dis-marketing to 17-year-olds?

If there is not, then don't market to 18 year olds. Very easy decision.

>If there is not, then don't market to 18 year olds. Very easy decision.

Can we extend that logic? For example, do we ban all marketing of any adult entertainment because it would also apply to most kids 13+? Do we ban marketing of games rated T or higher since they would appeal to people 12 and under?

Both of these are existing issues where people far younger than the intended demographic are using products not meant for them, and in some cases illegal to provide to them.

Porn producers seem to only advertise on actual porn sites, which means if an underage person is seeing them, the damage is already done. The problem there would be ineffective age gating by the websites, not the marketing itself. I have seen ads outside porn sites for other adult services like sex toy stores, phone sex hotlines, adult "dating" sites, etc. Some of those ads might appeal to underage people, but I don't think underage use of those services is widespread. If it is, and we as a society consider it a problem, then yes my logic would apply.

I don't think there is any legal basis for video game ratings. In fact, any such law would probably be unconstitutional: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_v._Entertainment_Merchan...

Long way to say that yes, we can extend my logic. If your marketing, or any activity you're doing, is encouraging kids to do something harmful, stop. It doesn't matter if you're breaking the law, just be a good person and try to do the right thing.

>I don't think there is any legal basis for video game ratings. In fact, any such law would probably be unconstitutional: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_v._Entertainment_Merchan....

I think it would definitely exist for AO games. M rated games are a bit harder to justify from a legal perspective (especially since M rated games are approved for children, at least 17 year old children). But one could still argue there is harm in video games when dealing with young kids playing age appropriate games, even if such harm currently isn't legally prevented. But But to do this would suggest banning all video game ads for any higher rated game. Definitely for M rated games, arguably for T rated games.

As a side note, there is also a big issue with games that are rated M that should really be rated AO if there was an consistency, and what it means for M rated games being approved for children, such as GTA V being M rated despite plenty of material that would be considered unfit and potentially illegal to directly provide to a 17 year old child.

Tobacco industry has not changed.

In the old good times British American Tobacco had a plan to start selling candies with nicotine so that they would get children hooked before they can smoke. They had to abandon the plan because sometimes children eat so much candy that they would get overdose and nicotine poisoning.

It's not by accident that Juul adopted similar marketing styles of big tobacco, the marketing and design of the products should speak for themselves [0]. WSJ also made a video exploring this business relationship a couple months back [1].

[0] https://pbs.twimg.com/media/D3u7m6nXoAA628x?format=jpg&name=...

[1] https://www.wsj.com/video/how-juul-took-a-page-from-big-toba...

Juul ads and the old time cigarette ads from decades ago remind me of Coca Cola ads as well. These massive marketing budgets all take some ugly thing and make seem like you can't have fun or be cool without it.

I was wondering what took so long. I vaguely remember seeing the very first juul ad and I was under the impression that they might have been affiliated with snapchat (Same vibrant color scheme etc). After finding out that they were nicotine vapes, I was truly shocked that it was so blatantly targeted towards teenagers.

Australia has the right idea with cigarettes. They aren’t outlawed, but the packaging shows decayed lungs and the marketing is very regulated.

We shouldn’t outlaw vaping, but we do need to clamp down on targeting kids with their design and marketing. Maybe we should force all vape packages to include information on the harmful effects of nicotine.

We do the same thing in the UK, with explicit images of diseased lungs, eyes etc.

Taxes have also escalated year on year, so it now costs around £12.50 (~$15) for a pack of 20 cigarettes - I guess this has cut smoking rates more than the graphic imagery.

I've heard from people who stopped buying cigarettes once they had to come out in olive green packaging. I guess whatever works right? It can be a pretty minor benefit, but as long as the net is in the right direction.

Sure, I didn't mean to imply the imagery wasn't useful, only that the high taxes are probably more useful :)

There is the packaging, but probably more important is increasing the tax (and therefore the price) over time. Demonstrable reductions in smokers every time the price goes up.

Is there some reason we shouldn't outlaw vaping? People who want to quit nicotine, or who consciously choose to become addicted to it, already have the gum and patches. And clearly vaping is creating a lot of new addicts.

At the very best, I think we should ban all advertising and paid marketing of addictive substances, and tax them heavily enough to provide free anti-addiction services to anybody who wants them. The whole theory of free markets, after all, is people making rational decisions, and the point of addictive products is to prevent them from doing so.

> Is there some reason we shouldn't outlaw vaping? People who want to quit nicotine, or who consciously choose to become addicted to it, already have the gum and patches.

There are a ton of assumptions packed into these two sentences. I'm a nicotine addict, and I hate smoking (which I've done for many years), but I love nicotine; I did even before I was an addict. Vaping provides me with all the benefits of nicotine with very few of the side effects that smoking brings; nicotine patches and gums, even the lowest dosage, are way too high for me and lead to extreme anxiety (among other side effects).

I don't want to quit nicotine, I just want a better delivery system. For me, the Juul is perfect.

1. i thought the idea of banning something died with the "war on drugs".

2. alcohol and coffee are addictive substances. 88k people die from alcohol every year: https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-facts-and-statistics

3. how about cars? 37k people die from cars every year (not including pollution-related diseases): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motor_vehicle_fatality_rate_in...

As ferzul points out, we ban plenty of things just fine. Shady-looking dealers are not selling loose asbestos and highly flammable children's pajamas on the streetcorners.

Alcohol and caffeine are at this point culturally established, so rooting them out is more trouble then it's worth. But we have the opportunity to stop Juul from foisting a highly profitable new addiction on millions, so I think the cost-benefit tradeoffs are different.

I'm entirely fine with banning private cars. Let's start by licensing and regulating them and their owners. Then we'll just keep ratcheting up safety requirements until the death toll is very low and most people are riding in safer vehicles driven by competent professionals. Looking at the progress Amsterdam has been making, I figure we can do it in 30 years if we put our minds to it.

> 1. i thought the idea of banning something died with the "war on drugs".

no, I never saw that memo. I'm in favor of banning many things, including but not limited to the (literal) murder trade. I'm pretty sure you are too. and the fact that people still buy murders doesn't make anyone argue that murder should be legalised.

and if you want something benign, how about partially hydrogenated vegetable oil?

> 3. how about cars?

well, at this point I'd be happy trying the licence and regulate approach. at the moment, licensing is a farce and government thinks making roads more dangerous is how you make them safer. but that's a whole nother hn thread.

For me it’s about personal choice. I don’t want to prevent someone from enjoying something as long as they know the consequences and have the mental capacity to make their own choices.

Courts have long held (in multiple countries) that average teenagers are not responsible enough to make certain decisions and need to be protected until they are more mature. That’s the basic reasoning behind my opinion to not outlaw outright, but to at least not target vulnerable populations.

The problem with addiction is that it strongly diminishes the capacity to make choices. So I think at the very least, we need to be deeply suspicious of things like Juul. And advertising, of course, is meant to subvert rational choice as well, so given that Juul is mostly a marketing company for a highly addictive drug, anybody valuing people making their own choices should be very concerned about it.

Humans are notoriously bad at balancing short term profit (a bump in nicotine satisfaction) and long term harm (lung cancer).

Humans absolutely need to be protected against themselves in this case.

I'm not sure how you explain the fall in cigarette smoking rates from the 80s until the present day, despite a lack of prohibition.

I'm not a smoker, but man did this comment send a chill down my spine.

pretty easy. governments took an oppositional attitude to it. they made it easier to get information about the cons and (at least as importantly) harder to get information about the pros. amongst other things.

saying that there's a "lack of prohibition" in cigarettes is kinda missing the point. the fact that one particular approach to discouraging a disapproved substance failed, doesn't mean another approach isn't being tried and - as you note - even successfully.

Sorry, I'm not quite sure if you're in agreement or not.

The claim was that humans need to be protected from themselves (in the context of the GP comment, this would mean a ban).

I meant to imply that since smoking rates declined steadily without a ban, the claim that prohibition is the correct answer because we humans can't stop trading short term pleasure for long term pain seems dubious.

That's even without considering our extensive experience with what happens when we prohibit substances which sellers want to sell and still not insignificant parts of the population want to buy.

i think we agree on the facts and disagree on the interpretation. smoking rates have gone down because the goverment has tried to eradicate it. so far, without a ban. it has been pretty successful. this doesn't say much about the success of a ban, but a lot about the government's ability to protect us from ourself.

the effectiveness of bans is far from univocal (which you see to admit by using a condition which would let you move the goalposts whenever i find a counter argument), and a ban on new nicotine products today would be completely different from the ban on alcohol in 1920s America. success doesn't have to be 100% for it to be good policy either, as the ban on murder shows.

I think the difference here is that I don't see education and internalising costs as protecting us from ourselves in the sense given by the OP (that even knowing perfectly the costs, we humans will still make the wrong decision and so need further protection from ourselves).

The effectiveness of the campaigns shows that given enough information we can in fact change our behaviours without needing to resort to prohibition, which is probably how I should have phrased my first response and skipped all of the rhetoric.

Purchasing cigarettes as a minor was prohibited in the late 80s.

I'm no expert on quitting smoking, but I understand that vaping is much more effective than other nicotine supplement methods because it replicates the physical habit of smoking, the inhaling and exhaling of the vapor.

There is reason (mostly anecdotal so far) to believe that vaping is a more reliable way to keep people off tobacco. Patches and gum have pretty low success rates.

There is also reason to believe (though more research is needed) that vaping removes 90+ percent of the harms of tobacco use.

Banning them then looks like an overreaction and would be counter-productive. Restrictions on advertising and other methods to attempt to cut down numbers of new addicts? Sure, that seems more reasonable.

Not an American nor am I familiar with american laws. I'm curious to know whether tech companies that manipulate content to increase the time spent on an app/device can be scrutinised under the above act? Isn't spending hours and hours on an app/device basically an addiction?

Like tobacco, it will probably take the US government several decades to react appropriately to the threat after the harm has become clear to the scientific community. Corporate lobbyists will fight it tooth and nail, just like they have in the past, stalling progress by bribing immoral politicians and confusing well meaning but stupid politicians with carefully worded bullshit.

Read the complaint here: https://docdro.id/ODq2yNC

Count one is civil RICO. Make of that what you will.

Edit: Very similar to this: https://www.classaction.org/media/nessmith-v-juul-labs-et-al...

Nicotine alternatives help people stop smoking, and Juul’s is the most innovative and compelling yet. Demonize them if you will but they have helped a lot of people’s health.

What's better though? Helping existing smokers with Juul, or exposing a whole new generation of kids to "cool hip smoking"?

Raising the age for tobacco is a good first step. Next is to raise prices on traditional tobacco products and incentivize smoking cessation products like gum and patches. Vapes can help with getting rid of the smoking part but it can be even easier to keep using them as compared to cigarettes. The health effects are so much less that, I'm guessing, many people stop smoking by switching to vapes and then never stop vaping. If you remove a lot of the obvious downsides to smoking (tar, smell, price, etc) and add in tasty flavors, why would anyone want to quit?

personally Juul is the only device that helped me quit smoking tobacco. i've tried other vapes and none compare to how easy it is to use a Juul, and how consistent their hits are. added bonus: i still get my nicotine, but without the rest of the cigarette chemicals (which btw, are radioactive: https://www.epa.gov/radtown/radioactivity-tobacco).

but this "Juul targeting children" thing is not new. i know they've been the focus of the US gov in the past, and they enacted some changes to their marketing (including removing some flavours and the like).

not sure what sparked this case thou, as in Europe (where i'm located) the whole tobacco industry is tightly regulated. but we can still get our nicotine without the government banning it (see San Francisco), although at a much lower strength (1.8 vs 5.0 in the states). this lower strength also helped.

so I hope due to this case Juul removes all this marketing BS and simply focus on their initial primary goal: making people drop tobacco and cigarettes.

If you haven't seen it, The Insider (1999) is well worth watching. It's based on a true story about a whistleblower in the tobacco industry. In the film the CEO knows nicotine is addictive and perjures himself.


I was recently on a tobacco case jury. I mentioned it to my Mom. The tobacco companies came to her high school in the 1950s and handed out free packs of cigarettes, 3 in each pack.

Of course, of course. Wait to sue them for $2 a customer until they've acquired the customers with a LTV of $30k for only $50. That'll teach 'em.

A complication to the whole story about the risks of vaping is that nicotine alone doesn't appear to be particularly addictive. The evidence suggests that it's specifically the combination of MAOI and nicotine found in tobacco that's actually so addictive:


Yeah, that's my experience too.

I vaped a lot, lost my vape and didn't buy a new one. The period afterwards, with no vape/nicotine, was completely unproblematic, I had no issues quitting at all.

Up next, Juul v2 with MAOIs added.

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