• Stanford researchers recently unveiled a trove of images from ads that Silicon Valley e-cigarette startup Juul used to market its flash drive-esque devices.
  • The company was recently valued at $15 billion, but it faces a growing backlash from public-health experts and scientists who worry about its skyrocketing popularity among young people.
  • Juul maintains that its products are for adult smokers who want to move away from traditional cigarettes.
  • But a recent study found that Juul stood out from other e-cig companies by marketing its devices on social-media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram — platforms with large numbers of young users.

The kids are not alright.

According to regulators and public health experts, vaping is the latest trend among young people, and the habit is creating a generation of new smokers. At the center of the controversy is Silicon Valley e-cigarette startup Juul, whose sleek devices now rule the vaping market.

At Stanford University, the alma mater of Juul co-founders Adam Bowen and James Monsees, researchers have been quietly assembling a trove of images, videos, and social media posts that the startup used to market its devices. Their work, which they revealed for the first time last week, is part of a larger study on the effects of tobacco advertising and includes faculty and students from pediatrics and medicine to history and anthropology.

The thousands of images shed light on how a tiny vaping startup used a combination of launch parties, social media, and free samples to become the predominant seller of e-cigs in just three years. And they add new fuel to the debate over whether the company deliberately marketed to young people, as US regulators launch a crackdown on youth vaping.

The images suggest that Juul’s ad campaign began with launch parties in New York City and other cities, where guests were invited to try the Juul for free and share selfies on social media.

“Juul’s launch campaign was patently youth-oriented,” Robert Jackler, a practicing Stanford physician and the prinicpal investigator behind the tobacco image collection, told Business Insider.

An ad for Juul’s launch party, posted to Instagram and shared by Juul (JuulVapor).

Juul has maintained that its products are not for young people and are intended entirely for adults looking to transition away from traditional cigarettes and onto less harmful vaping products.

“The advertising was intended for adults, was short lived and had very little impact on our growth,” a Juul spokesperson told…