It hasn’t even been a month since Juul and Altria, parent company of Marlboro cigarettes, joined forces in a $12.8 Billion 35% minority investment, and publicly pledged to remove nicotine flavor pods from store shelves and to keep e-cigarettes away from teens. Should any of us be surprised that the promises they made are being thrown to the wind?
Back in October, the chief executive of Altria stated in a letter to the FDA that “pod-based products significantly contribute to the rise in youth vaping,” and they agreed to stop selling them. On December 18, 2018, Altria’s MarkTen and Green Smoke e-cigarettes were shut down. December 20, 2018 Altria bought into Juul. But by merging with Altria, Juul now has shelf space in 230,000 retail outlets, up from the 90,000 it had. Now that Altria has given Juul shelf space, they are telling the FDA they are “merely a minority investor in Juul” and don’t control Juul’s business because it is an independent company. Juul isn’t the only e-cigarette company that had 60 days to provide they could keep products away from minors; RJR Vapor Co.’s Vuse, Imperial Brands’ blu and devices made by Logic also received letters from the FDA.
Juul continues to say they have a plan to “curb youth vaping” and are sticking to it, at least according to a Juul spokesperson. According to the company, it “would suspend retail sales of teen-friendly flavors like mango, fruit and crème,” selling them only on their site that supposedly controls verification, but that doesn’t appear to be happening.
Behind the scenes, Juul is spending money on lobbyists and advertisers to change their image from the company that holds over 70% of the pod-based market and created the largest ever recorded increase between 2017 to 2018 in the past 43 years for any adolescent substance (vaping) use outcome in the US to one as a “public health company” that wants to “disrupt the tobacco business.” Spending money on lobbyists is nothing different then what the tobacco industry has done for decades, except Juul now has access to Altria’s lobbyists who have more experience navigating Washington. Juul also has access to cigarette consumers as Altria is including advertising (and possibly coupon) inserts in Marlboro and other cigarettes packs. Should public health officials be worried that smokers could become dual users?
It seems like the FDA drew a line in the sand giving these companies 60 days back in September, but the tobacco companies are reneging on their own detailed plans. And why wouldn’t they? This is a billion dollar business, and the money and addiction is coming from our teens. Just normal business with another generation of users for the tobacco industry.
Click HERE for the New York Times article.