Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley today joined with nine Senate colleagues to launch an investigation into JUUL Labs, Inc., the vaping industry titan.
In their letter to JUUL CEO Kevin Burns, the senators asked about the company’s partnership with Big Tobacco giant Altria, and questioned JUUL’s marketing tactics to hook children on nicotine with kid-appealing flavors.
“While JUUL has promised to address youth vaping through its modest voluntary efforts, by accepting $12.8 billion from Altria—a tobacco giant with such a disturbing record of deceptive marketing to hook children onto cigarettes—JUUL has lost what little remaining credibility the company had when it claimed to care about the public health,” the senators wrote. “While you and your investors may be perfectly content with hooking an entire new generation of children on your tobacco products in order to increase your profit margins, we will not rest until your dangerous products are out of the hands of our nation’s children.”
The senators in their letter also made requests for documents pertaining to JUUL’s secret business practices around youth marketing and whether the company is in violation of regulations or commitments made to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Federal public health agencies have identified JUUL as being largely responsible for fueling the e-cigarette epidemic among America’s youth, while no clinical evidence has emerged in the United States of JUUL’s use as a potential tobacco cessation tool.
In December, Altria announced an investment of $12.8 billion for a 35 percent stake in JUUL, which appears to create a clear customer pipeline for the tobacco giant, known for its kid-popular Marlboro brand, to hook a new generation of users onto its cigarettes.
Over the past year, the U.S. Surgeon General and the FDA Commissioner have called youth use of e-cigarettes a “public health epidemic.” According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS), 20.8 percent of high-school students and 4.9 percent of middle-school students—more than 3.6 million children—currently use e-cigarettes. Over the past year alone, e-cigarette use among children increased by an alarming 78 percent in high-school students and 48 percent in middle-school students. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), JUUL is driving this epidemic.
Joining Wyden and Merkley in sending today’s letter are U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Patty Murray (D-WA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tom Udall (D-NM), Ed Markey (D-MA) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).
Full text of the letter to JUUL is available here.
A web version of this release is available here.