september 6, 2019 

Youth Safety -- Learn from the Juul PR Nightmare  

September 6, 2019 -- Juul’s CEO Kevin Burns appeared on CBS This Morning the week of August 26th discussing youth safety. He was promoting their new ID verification system to curb underaged e-cigarette use. He said that “online is still a challenge as a channel,” yet at the same time he touched on the health issues of their e-cigarettes with THC. Youth access to e-cigarettes is a nationwide problem, and Michigan’s governor moved to completely ban sales in the state. To avoid similar, negative PR problems and extreme government regulations, the cannabis community must be proactive and lead the way on preventing online youth access to cannabis products.


ResponsiTech knows that there are several proven online solutions to keep the kids out. We discussed this in a recent article, Online Youth Access to Cannabis – Imminent Danger Ahead. While no solution is perfect, technology already exists to mitigate youth access to cannabis online; the industry simply needs to embrace it.


Currently, the three most common age gates are:

·      Are you 21: Yes or No? (Completely ineffective)

·      Birthdate Verifiers (Also ineffective)

·      Actual Age Verification Services (Effective but can be burdensome).


“Risk mitigation and compliance for online youth safety is not a hypothetical issue that can be avoided any longer.” – Joan Irvine, Co-Founder & CEO, ResponsiTech


Health Canada recently stated that the current self-affirming age gates (Are you 21? and Birthdate Verifiers), are insufficient. The Canadian government’s public statement leaves the industry in a vulnerable legal position. But we believe that the first and best line of defense is parental filtering. Parents simply need to activate and monitor the parental filtering tools that reside on almost all modern electronic devices. Correspondingly, cannabis companies need to embed specialized parental filtering codes on their sites. This combination blocks access to any inquiries and places responsibility on both the site owner and the parents.


To avoid the same PR nightmares that Juul is experiencing, we suggest that the cannabis industry incorporate some of Juul’s new marketing code into their marketing plans:

  • Do not feature images or situations intended for a youth audience

  • Campaigns depict appropriately aged individuals

  • Do not use cartoons, caricatures, or other designs aimed at attracting minors

  • Ensure responsible placement of our product designed to limit exposure to an underage demographic

  • Support and comply with all federal and state regulations to prevent sales to minors – this includes stringent third-party age verification for online sales

  • Use social media responsibly to ensure content is targeted to adult smokers, while limiting engagement by youth. In the U.S., Juul does not use social media to advertise or promote its products, and messaging is limited to non-promotional communications.

Being pragmatic, Juul’s new marketing code is a smart way to use your marketing dollars since you will be advertising to the correct consumer market. A recent Forbes article referenced a new report by leading industry researchers Arcview and BDS Analytics. It found the generations who are consuming cannabis at higher rates are:


·      39% Gen Z: 25 - 39


·      41% Gen X: 40- 54


·      22% Baby Boomers: 55 – 73.


Scott Rabinowitz, CEO of Buoyancy Digital, provides additional steps that your marketing department needs to know about your online marketing campaigns in order to protect your company. Read about it in a recent article entitled Online Advertising in an Age-Restricted Industry.  

Given the very nature of the cannabis industry, it’s difficult to balance all the issues with generally accepted mainstream business polices: First Amendment rights, Safe Harbor provisions for digital communications, FTC and FDA advertising regulations, taxes, and youth safety. And it certainly does not help when government regulatory agencies keep changing the rules.

Working together, we can help protect youth while growing your company in this emerging and fast growing industry. Putting it simply, it’s a time to lead, not to follow.

Joan Irvine, ResponsiTech Co-Founder & CEO, brings over two decades of policy development, government relations, and advocacy for online child protection in ‘high-risk’ industries to the cannabis industry. She successfully spearheaded an international award-winning parental filtering label and worked with First Amendment, Internet Security, and Privacy attorneys and international law enforcement to establish online child protection. To learn more about us on our siteLinkedIn and Facebook.


ResponsiTech offer a suite of youth safety technology and services that will enable the legal cannabis industry to thrive while ensuring that illicit youth access is restricted. Among those solutions are: an industry standard parental filtering label so youth will be blocked from even accessing websites,  a state-of-the-art age verification technology that respects privacy while ensuring that only those above a specific age are verified; and age-restricted ad-buying and best practices so that youth is not accidentally targeted by marketing campaigns. These along with other solutions not only allow the cannabis industry to focus on its core business, but will also give banks, legislators and parents peace of mind over any concerns over online youth access is being taken seriously by the responsible cannabis industry. ResponsiTech assists companies in restricting illicit youth access and demonstrates the industry’s ability to self-regulate and comply with government restrictions with regards to youth safety. It helps shelter its members from regulatory threats, providing best practices for the international industry.

For additional details, please contact: 

Joan Irvine 

P – 011 (424) 262 7204

Empowering the Cannabis Industry to RISE ABOVE in Youth Safety!