Senators’ scathing letter to Juul demands answers about tactics targeting youth, ties to Big Tobacco

They are requesting data, plans and other information from Juul related to his popularity among young people and his relationship with the tobacco giant Altria, which invested almost $ 13 billion in the company at the end of last year.

The Altria agreement said Juul is "more interested in raising his profit margins than in protecting our nation's children," says the letter, signed by Democrats such as Dick Durbin of Illinois, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. and Elizabeth Warren of Mbadachusetts.

"Altria has a long and sordid history of spending billions to attract children to smoke through targeted campaigns that intentionally lied about the effects on the science and health of cigarettes," the letter says.

The move comes when Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who took a strong stand against vaping minors as commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration. UU., He retired on Friday, which generated doubts about the aggressiveness with which the agency will continue with the issue under new leadership.

"Acting commissioner of the FDA [Dr. Ned] Sharpless must, on the first day, work to protect our nation's children from a lifelong nicotine addiction, putting the full force of the FDA behind this effort, "Durbin said in a statement.

"An epidemic must be treated immediately, not within months or years," he said.

The senators are pressuring Juul to obtain detailed information about his sales and advertising expenses; how the company plans to prevent underage people from viewing their ads or buying their products; new businesses that emerged after Altria's announcement; how the company plans to verify ages and prevent people from placing bulk orders online; and what financial links the company has with the "organizations of conservative and anti-regulation tendencies" that they wrote to President Trump in February, hoping to obstruct the repression of the FDA.
#JUUL: How social networks promoted nicotine for a new generation
In addition, the legislators requested a complete list of "influential people in social networks" paid by Juul to publicize their brand. A CNN investigation in December shed light on Juul's influencers program and identified several of the social network users who participated. At that time, a representative of Juul said that the company had abandoned that program, describing it as small and short-lived. But now the senators want to know if the company did this business in accordance with the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission.

The company's response to the letter, addressed to its CEO, Kevin Burns, is requested before April 25.

In a statement sent by email on Monday, Juul said that "we appreciate the opportunity to share information about JUUL Labs' commitment to curbing the use of our products by minors while we fulfill our mission to eliminate combustible cigarettes. ", promising to continue working with several officials and elected officials. The company added that it has taken measures to stop the use of minors, such as stopping most of the retail sales of flavored products and closing some of its social media accounts.

Juul also said that his agreement with Altria "will help us change adult smokers of the combustible cigarettes by helping us to have our product in their hands," for example, by including the Juul inserts in the cigarette packs.

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Juul has argued that his products are intended to convert former adult smokers into what he describes as a less harmful alternative. But following the agreement with Altria, say the senators, Juul "has lost the little credibility that was left to the company when he said he was concerned about public health."

The FDA revealed in November that vaping had increased by almost 80% among high school students and 50% among high school students from the previous year. Public health experts say that Juul has driven the increase to a large extent, since it owns about 75% of the electronic cigarette market in the United States.
Experts are concerned that electronic cigarettes may jeopardize the development of children's brains, that they get hooked on nicotine at a young age, and that they are a gateway to tobacco and other drugs.
The FDA has been conducting its own investigation into electronic cigarette companies to discover if they are marketing products illegally and outside of the agency's compliance policy. The agency also conducted a surprise inspection of Juul's San Francisco headquarters in October, confiscating thousands of documents, many of which are related to its sales and marketing practices.
Most of the same senators also wrote to Juul last year, pressuring the company to take quick action to keep their nicotine-filled products out of children's reach, but they have been disappointed by the lack of progress since then, the legislators said. .

"While you and your investors can be perfectly happy to connect a whole new generation of children to your tobacco products to increase your profit margins," the letter says, "we will not rest until your dangerous products are out of your hands. of the children of our nation. "

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