At a House oversight hearing on Wednesday, executives of Juul Labs and four other e-cigarette companies pledged to tackle the vaping epidemic of young people, which was suspected by several lawmakers.
The committee will hear from the CEOs of Juul, Reynolds American, and NJOY, as well as the presidents of Logic and Fontem.
CEOs from Juul, Reynolds American, and NJOY, as well as the presidents Logic and Fontem, were questioned for several hours by members of the Committee on Energy and Commerce’s oversight and investigations subcommittee about their role in the epidemic and their plans for reducing youth access and use of their products.
The hearing was held one day before the Trump administration’s partial ban on flavored e-cigarettes goes into effect, which outlaws pre-filled vaping pods in fruit, candy, and other flavors except for tobacco and menthol. But it does not include single-use e-cigarettes, refillable tank-type devices, or bulk liquids.
Juul has long been the target of lawmakers’ ire as congressional investigators have probed the company’s role in the youth vaping crisis. But the hearing will mark the first time that executives from the other companies have testified in Congress about youth vaping rates.
Juul previously pulled its non-menthol and non-tobacco flavored products from the market. At the same time, the company pledged it would not sell any other flavors under any name unless they are first authorized by the FDA.
The companies represent 97 percent of the $19.3 billion U.S. e-cigarette market, according to Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), chairwoman of the House Energy and Commerce oversight and investigations subcommittee, which is holding the hearing.
“Nobody using these vaping products really knows how they will affect their health.”
“While consumers remain in the dark of the possible health consequences, these companies are making billions of dollars as they lure a new generation of young people into a lifetime of nicotine addiction.”Rep. Diana DeGette
Lawmakers want information about how the companies are marketing their products, the possible health effects vaping products may pose to those who use them and the role each company believes it should be playing in the ongoing effort to curb the nation’s teen-vaping epidemic.
Last year the number of middle school and high school students in the U.S. who reported current use of e-cigarettes increased to 5 million, from 3.6 million the previous year, with more than 1 in 4 high school students (27.5%) reporting e-cigarette use within the last 30 days.
Within 2 years of entering the U.S. market, Juul became the most popular e-cigarette in the country, capturing 72% of market share by the end of 2018. During the same period, the use of e-cigarettes among teens skyrocketed.
In his opening remarks to the subcommittee members, Juul Labs CEO K.C. Crosthwaite outlined steps the company has taken to address the rise in youth use, including stopping the broadcast, print, and digital advertising; and voluntarily restricting the sale of flavors other than menthol and tobacco.
Formerly an executive with tobacco giant Altria, which holds a large equity stake in Juul, Crosthwaite took charge last September, replacing longtime CEO Kevin Burns.
Crosthwaite claimed company research indicates that most adult smokers who try Juul products “are able to successfully transition completely off of cigarettes.” He promised to provide this research to FDA investigators in the company’s premarket tobacco product applications, which must be filed by May 11 of this year.
Other vaping company executives, however, suggested Juul alone is to blame for the dramatic increase in youth e-cigarette use, albeit without mentioning the company by name.
Under the final policy on flavored vaping products, the Trump administration will strip the market of popular fruit and mint pod-based flavors, but not tobacco and menthol.
Pod-based products, like those manufactured by Juul and NJOY, are the most popular with teens, according to government surveys.
Recent federal data showed that more than 5 million middle and high school students reported using e-cigarettes within a 30-day window.
Disposable e-cigarettes, open tank systems and e-liquids of any flavor, including those mixed in vape shops, will also remain available under the policy.
The Trump administration’s decision left public health advocates and many lawmakers unsatisfied with what they saw as a gigantic exemption for the industry. Vaping industry critics will be watching the hearing closely.
“The new administration plan leaves on the market literally millions of flavored products.”Matt Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
Myers said the executives should be asked to commit to removing all of their flavored products from the market, even those that are exempted from the administration’s ban.
“Are they prepared to make a commitment to take from the market all of the flavors that have fueled the youth e-cigarette epidemic?” Myers said.
After May, companies that want to sell e-cigarettes in the U.S. will have to receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and prove their products benefit public health.
NJOY will stop distributing flavored versions of their products on Thursday, the effective date of the FDA vaping guidance.
Democrats and other public health advocates said they are also concerned companies will exploit what they say is a major loophole in Trump’s ban by continuing to sell mint and simply labeling it as menthol.
But advocates also said they don’t want lawmakers to get caught up relitigating past industry actions. They argue the vaping industry has already caused enough damage to young people; they want to know what the companies will do to stop it going forward.
Further about Teen Vaping:
- Survey Shows Surge in Middle School Vaping Just in a Year, and by One-Third of CRLS Teens
- Teens Stopped Smoking with New and Dangerous Twists
- Vaping Among Teens Leading to Addictions, Use of Marijuana, Nicotine on a Rise
- Social Sources Are the Main Channel of Youth Access to Juul Vaping Products in the U.S.
Source: MedPage Today