The company behind the most popular electronic cigarette on the market is pledging $30 million to efforts aimed at curbing youth use of vapor products.
JUUL Labs announced the investment Wednesday as part of a new strategy to keep their device out of the hands of youths. JUUL will back legislation at the state and local level that raises the minimum tobacco purchasing age to 21, the company statement also said. The move comes a day after the Food and Drug Administration sent warning letters to retailers selling to teens that specifically named the JUUL e-cigarette, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The company’s initial investment of $30 million over the next three years will go toward funding independent research into the “scientific and societal implications of vapor products.” JUUL will work directly with Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and a group of public health officials to develop a “transparent” framework for conducting independent research.
“Our company’s mission is to eliminate cigarettes and help the more than one billion smokers worldwide switch to a better alternative,” JUUL CEO Kevin Burns said in the statement Wednesday. “We are already seeing success in our efforts to enable adult smokers to transition away from cigarettes and believe our products have the potential over the long-term to contribute meaningfully to public health in the U.S. and around the world. At the same time, we are committed to deterring young people, as well as adults who do not currently smoke, from using our products. We cannot be more emphatic on this point: No young person or non-nicotine user should ever try JUUL.”
The FDA sent warnings to 40 retail and online shops selling vapor products, specifically the JUUL, to underage customers as part of a “retailer blitz to crack down” on illicit sales, agency Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said Tuesday. Regulators also directly confronted JUUL Labs over their popular device, demanding the company provide documents on product marketing, toxicological and physiological impacts, details on ingredients, and whether there are differing sales among age groups based on flavors.
Officials want to “better understand” these products and why they appear to be so appealing to teens, they said. Representatives for JUUL are cooperating with the FDA’s efforts to combat teen use.
The JUUL is a slim device closely mimicking the nicotine experience of a cigarette while significantly slashing the harms from combustible tobacco. The devices are solely intended for adult smokers trying to quit combustible tobacco. Fear over increased teen experimentation with vaping, however, is being used as justification for blanket and crushing regulation of the vaping industry by the FDA.
“For JUUL, the potential for replacing cigarettes is as huge economically as it is in terms of public health,” David Sweanor of the Center for Health Law, Policy and Ethics at the University of Ottawa told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “There are over a billion cigarette smokers globally, and they are spending roughly $800 billion on a product most would like to cease using. We are already seeing JUUL meeting this demand. With the effort to deal with the hysteria being created by supposed health groups about youth, JUUL is like a football player who is trying to evade a tackle by someone he thought was on his team so he can try to score a touchdown.”
JUUL emerged as a powerhouse in the vapor market in 2017, and the device currently represent 54.6 percent of sales in the industry.
In what should be welcomed news for public health advocates and tobacco controllers, researchers at Citi recently said that a sharp acceleration in sales for JUUL in the fourth quarter of 2017 is directly responsible for a six percent decline in U.S. cigarette volumes in the first quarter of 2018.
Public health experts focused on harm reduction say the misinformed crusade against e-cigarettes risks undoing the gains made in reducing smoking prevalence in America.
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