Examining JUUL’s role in the youth e-cigarette epidemic
Statement of Robin Koval, CEO and President, Truth Initiative®
Congressional hearings held on July 24-25 about JUUL’s role in the youth e-cigarette epidemic proved, with the company’s own testimony and documents, that JUUL has become Big Tobacco 2.0. Committee members shared multiple exhibits that exposed how JUUL’s strategies and actions are straight from the tobacco industry’s playbook. The startling evidence presented during the questioning of JUUL Co-founder and Chief Product Officer, James Monsees, and Chief Administrative Officer Ashley Gould, indicates that:
- JUUL misappropriated Stanford University’s educational materials about youth prevention programs to the point of receiving a cease and desist from the school. JUUL claimed they had no prior knowledge of how Big Tobacco used similar programs despite evidence indicating that they carefully studied the topic.
- JUUL’s logo so closely resembled Marlboro’s logo design in the early days of the company that it resulted in a trademark infringement settlement with Philip Morris USA, whose parent company Altria ironically now owns a 35% stake in JUUL.
- JUUL programs targeted children as young as 8 years old by funding summer camps, paying community and church groups to distribute their material, and targeting veterans’ groups and other vulnerable populations.
- JUUL continues to block and prevent Food and Drug Administration regulations, investing more than $1 million in lawyers and lobbying efforts in the last quarter alone. Meanwhile, JUUL has failed to subject its products to the level of independent, clinical investigation needed to substantiate any claims of effective cessation, nor has the company applied to the FDA to be approved as a product to help smokers quit.
- At the same time as JUUL admits to what they called marketing and education program “mistakes and missteps” in the U.S. they are implementing similar efforts in Canada, the United Kingdom and other parts of the world.
- JUUL executives had trouble remembering many things under oath, including the fact that they had an entire department dedicated to social media influencer marketing clearly aimed at youth customers. James Monsees also seemed to contradict himself repeatedly as to whether or not JUUL is in the cessation business.
Despite JUUL repeatedly claiming that it is not Big Tobacco, the company’s actions and testimony tell a very different story. Through repeated misrepresentations, misremembrances and obfuscation, JUUL showed itself to have studied the tone and tactics of the industry they claim to be trying to disrupt and to be taking them to a new level in what we can only characterize as Big Tobacco 2.0. The testimonies provided an abundance of new information and facts that we will share with young people through our truth® campaign to reveal how JUUL is targeting and recruiting a new generation and putting their future health at risk for profit.