Juul Rented A Scientific Journal For a Month To Spread Glorified Marketing

from the buy-yourself-an-alternate-reality dept

One-time darling in the e-cigarette space, Juul, has witnessed an absolutely stunning collapse. The one-two punch of a rash of mysterious deaths and illnesses linked to nicotine vaping, compounded by an investigation into the company's dodgy marketing to teenagers, has resulted in the company's market share in e-cigarettes dropping from around 75 percent at its peak to 42 percent today. And depending on an upcoming FDA ruling, the company could soon see its products banned in the US entirely.

Juul is sparing no expense to try and convince the FDA to keep its products on store shelves. Buried in a New York Times report on the looming FDA decision was an interesting nugget: namely that the company had paid $51,000 for a month of favorable coverage in the American Journal of Health Behavior:

"...it paid $51,000 to have the entire May/June issue of the American Journal of Health Behavior devoted to publishing 11 studies funded by the company offering evidence that Juul products help smokers quit. (A spokesman for Juul said the editors had rejected one of the company’s submissions.) That fee included an extra $6,500 to have the subscription journal open access to everyone."

Three editorial board members of the journal in question resigned over the bizarre and cozy arrangement. David Dayen at the American Prospect took a deeper look and found an additional stunning revelation: of the 26 named co-authors on the 11 studies Juul funded and included in the journal, every last one was financially linked to Juul in some capacity:

"18 of the co-authors are either current full-time employees of Juul, or were full-time employees at the time they conducted the research. Five others are consultants with PinneyAssociates, working “on an exclusive basis to Juul Labs.” And the final three, who co-authored one of the 11 studies, are employees of the Centre for Substance Use Research, an “independent” consultancy that designed that study under a contract with … Juul Labs."

Granted our apathy to the steadily eroding line between expertise (journalism, academia, science) and marketing and lobbying is certainly nothing new. In this case not only were all of the authors and editors financially linked to Juul in some way, the studies were all funded by Juul, and the internal editor of the purportedly objective journal was under contract with Juul as a consultant through PinneyAssociates. Again, that only three people at the journal found this gross or disqualifying (or at least were willing to act on those beliefs) makes it very clear how normalized this sort of stuff has become.

As long as there's some form of mouse print disclosure, none of this violates existing advertising law. As Dayen notes, in academic and scientific circles, the whole thing is a perfectly normalized circle of grift, influence, and illusion:

"There are multiple rip-offs going on here at once. Academics are desperate to publish in journals to prove to their universities that they are working diligently. Corporations recognize the opportunity to underwrite research and produce independent validation of their goals. And they turn around and use that research to persuade policymakers, who presume themselves sophisticated about spotting fake research, but probably are not."

In a bit of added irony given all of the shenanigans surrounding scientific journal public access, it turned out that part of the $51,000 fee Juul paid to effectively rent this journal for a month included a $6,500 fee to unlock the entire journal for public access. The Journal's fee schedule shows how authors pay $895 per article, a fee that jumps to $1,595 should you want your article freely available to the public. Obviously that's a paradigm that harms transparency and favors those who can afford it, like, say, large corporations eager to exploit sagging US standards to impact discourse and influence policymakers.

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Filed Under: academic journals, e-cigarettes, fake research, scientific research, vaping
Companies: juul


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  • icon
    Narcissus (profile), 9 Jul 2021 @ 5:33am

    Combining 2 TechDirt topics here

    For those interested, a comparison of the rigor applied by gamers and scientists:

    https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2021/07/gamers-are-better-scientists-catchin g-fraud/619324/

    It seems science should do better, as also the above story shows.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      hegemon13, 9 Jul 2021 @ 6:45am

      Re: Combining 2 TechDirt topics here

      First, that's a fascinating article, and thank you for posting it. Second, science did do better. It's just that the gaming community is better at applying investigatory science than academic journals.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 12 Jul 2021 @ 12:50am

        Re: Re: Combining 2 TechDirt topics here

        "It's just that the gaming community is better at applying investigatory science than academic journals."

        Motivation matters. Lorenzo's Oil stands out as evidence that smart people heavily motivated to dig deeper in a topic can produce results.

        Unfortunately this same argument lends a cloak of credibility all too often stolen by gormless morons advocating conspiracy theories and bad sci-fi.

        What science in the end brings to the table isn't speed or targeted research, but validity. It's that part which makes scientists the more credible source in most cases.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 9 Jul 2021 @ 6:21am

    Juul really does help somkers quit . . .

    . . . breathing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    sumgai (profile), 9 Jul 2021 @ 8:12am

    Well, since the terms mask-holes and vax-holes have entered our lexicon, it shouldn't be too long before we see "Juul-holes". Otherwise, I think we're looking at "Juul-gate".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Jul 2021 @ 8:51am

      Re:

      agree that Juul-bashing is the main point here, but it's all biased subjectivity.

      DannyB is correct that vaping is dramatically safer than tobacco smoking and does help many people kick the tobacco habit.
      The very few injuies and deaths from vaping were all caused by sloppy toxin contaminated preperation of vaping liquids in amateur, backroom circumstances; Juul was not involved at all.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Toom1275 (profile), 9 Jul 2021 @ 3:14pm

        Re: Re:

        So you've proven you're both illiterate and a liar. Well done.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Jul 2021 @ 8:41am

        Re: Re:

        This is absolute horseshit. the deaths in question were a direct 100% result of using JUUL products. Not a single scientist (that doesn't work for JUUL) disputes this.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 12 Jul 2021 @ 12:52am

        Re: Re:

        "The very few injuies and deaths from vaping were all caused by sloppy toxin contaminated preperation of vaping liquids in amateur, backroom circumstances; Juul was not involved at all."

        Except for paying the producers, accepting the product, and slapping their logo on the preparation you mean? By that same argument Don Corleone would be off the hook for a hit because Luca Brasi was the guy with the icepick.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Paul Sand, 9 Jul 2021 @ 8:31am

    "mysterious deaths and illnesses related to nicotine vaping"

    The 2019 article you link to says "All patients reported a history of vaping, and the majority reported using THC-containing products." I.e., mostly not related to nicotine vaping, and not really that mysterious any more, involving vitamin E acetate.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 9 Jul 2021 @ 10:52am

    Wait until someone with power looks into how recycling, global warming, cigarettes bought good PR and ran disinformation.
    Perhaps they are just mad they paid journals instead of PACs.

    It is really awesome how Juul is the whipping post for any and all vaping products that people used that caused harm. Juul did the same thing other companies have done, without anyone in gov actually stopping them, for decades... but some teens vaped some things they bought on sketchy internet sites or in ads on teen popular platforms (I mean really they are buying what they think is E via snapchat) and so it HAD to be Juul's fault.

    Juul has had some incidents (leaking carts nicotine poisonings) & questionable marketing ideas (Doctors recommend Camel smokes) but latching every type of vaping to 1 single brand who never produced a THC cart is manipulating public perception into joining a battle against vaping as a whole b/c people aren't allowed to make their own decisions be they good bad or indifferent.

    Its a pity that truth seems to always be the first casualty in these we're doing this for your own good campaigns. I mean imagine what we could have learned about CBD in the years we wasted pretending reefer would be the gateway to moral erosion of society as a whole.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      sumgai (profile), 9 Jul 2021 @ 12:24pm

      Re:

      It is really awesome how Juul is the whipping post for any and all vaping products that people used that caused harm. i

      Juul, the 21st Century version of Kool-Aid. Even though it was Flavor-Aid that was used to kill over 900 people at Jonestown, Kool-Aid gets the rap. Why? Market familiarity. Juul's in the same boat. Ask anyone on the street that does not vape, and the only brand name they'll come up with is... you guessed it, Juul.

      Juul did the same thing other companies have done, without anyone in gov actually stopping them, for decades...

      No, it's not the same thing. Up until now, no one, big or small, has ever compromised a (rather, an alleged) scientific journal at this magnitude of fuckery. I'm quite certain that any such crap would've been exposed by now. Whether Juul is fighting a rear-guard action or otherwise, you simply don't pull shit like that and expect to check a box in the Winner column.

      And what other companies have done is a non-starter, it's the old "what about" game, and that doesn't play well in Peoria. Stay focused, or those Red Herrings are gonna stink up your computer room.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That Anonymous Coward (profile), 9 Jul 2021 @ 1:12pm

        Re: Re:

        Something something Exxon documents showing they bought off climate change, recycling, etc. knowing they were screwing us in the name of profits...
        Then there was that recent Agent Orange story where they knew how harmful it was to people and still sprayed our citizens and soldiers with it.

        It isn't a what about game, they played the exact same game other major players have played & still not faced anywhere near the fuckery JUUL is getting. Something something Purdue Pharma allowed to write off what they paid in settlements after they bought off doctors/journals/etc to claim their drug worked much longer & was less addictive when they have the documents showing how much of that was a lie.

        The problem is gov refuses to fund the oversight meant to keep us safe & trust that big corporations actually care if they kill people...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Upstream (profile), 9 Jul 2021 @ 10:59am

    Corruption vs corruption

    When we have a corrupt government f̶i̶n̶a̶n̶c̶i̶a̶l̶l̶y̶ ̶a̶t̶t̶a̶c̶k̶i̶n̶g̶ robbing (or even legislating out of existence) successful, deep-pocketed corporations who happen to make products disfavored by said corrupt government, it is not at all surprising that some of these companies will resort to equally corrupt countermeasures as a means of fighting back, particularly after they have seen the lack of success of companies who tried fighting back using more conventional means.

    Granted our apathy to the steadily eroding line between expertise (journalism, academia, science) and marketing and lobbying is certainly nothing new.

    This aspect of the situation is a separate issue, and is only involved here because it happens to be Juul's (barely legal) weapon of choice in this instance. Juul could have also chosen other corrupt means of fighting back, such as bribing or blackmailing government officials, but those are much harder to "mouse print" into (barely) legal status.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    techflaws (profile), 9 Jul 2021 @ 11:07am

    devoted to publishing 11 studies funded by the company offering
    evidence that Juul products help smokers quit.

    Because, you know, we want to turn all smokers into non-smokers to have our company eventually cease to exist. Yeah, right.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bruce C., 9 Jul 2021 @ 11:19am

    Sad...

    That this episode says more about the "American Journal of Health Behavior" and its publisher than it does about Juul.

    Juul is simply following the well-trodden path of the purveyors of tobacco, leaded gasoline and others who use flawed science or outright fraudulent science to promote their own interests.

    A supposedly reputable scientific journal should be more concerned about their reputation than a publication fee of less than $100k

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 9 Jul 2021 @ 12:44pm

    'Credibility for sale, credibility for sale, dirt cheap at that!

    Well that's one way to burn your journal's reputation to the ground, nothing like being paid a moderate sum to pump our PR fluff to absolutely gut any chance people might consider you a trustworthy source.

    If the journal wants to recover from this they're going to need to do a bit more than just have a few people resign, they need to bring the hammer down hard and make it clear that what went on not only wasn't acceptable but will be harshly punished should other people working there even seriously consider doing the same.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Jul 2021 @ 2:59pm

      Re: 'Credibility for sale'

      the legacy mainstream media sold out their journalistic credibility long ago; took a bit longer for the secondary media to catch up

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jul 2021 @ 8:39am

    Is this the same JUUL that monitors IP addresses and "hides" its adverts from scientific and government departments?

    The same JUUL that advertises directly to kids on kid-specific Youtube channels etc?

    The same JUUL that funded fake research from scientists that don't exist to say vaping is harmless?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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