Risk & Compliance

E-cigarette Makers Questioned Over Health Concerns by U.S. House Panel

Recent vaping-related lung illness and the rising popularity of e-cigarettes among younger people is sparking concern.
Lauren MuskettAugust 22, 2019
E-cigarette Makers Questioned Over Health Concerns by U.S. House Panel

The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee asked four major e-cigarette makers about their research and marketing practices after recent vaping-related lung illnesses and the popularity of e-cigarettes among adolescents.

The committee sent letters to JUUL Labs (35%-owned by Marlboro maker Altria), Fontem Ventures, Japan Tobacco International, and Reynolds American requesting information on their marketing practices and their role in the promotion of e-cigarette use by adolescents.

Usage of e-cigarette products increased by nearly 80% among high school students and nearly 50% among middle school students in the prior year while the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Preveniton (CDC) reported that 1.5 million more students used e-cigarettes in 2018 than in 2017.

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“I am concerned that electronic nicotine delivery systems, like JUUL, are continuing to be disseminated, marketed, and used while consumers lack adequate information to evaluate the health implications of using these products,” Chairman Pallone wrote in his letter to JUUL’s CEO Kevin Burns. “In fact, [CDC] and state health officials are currently investigating 94 possible cases of ‘pulmonary illnesses linked to e-cigarette use’ among young people reported in recent weeks across 14 states.”

The CDC along with state health officials are currently investigating 94 possible cases of “severe” lung illnesses linked to vaping among young people in 14 states since June 28, including 30 cases in Wisconsin alone.

Reynolds American spokeswoman Kaelan Hollon said her company is reviewing the letter and believes “minors should never use tobacco products, including vapor products.”

Japan Tobacco said in a statement that the company welcomes any opportunity to “set out the responsible approaches” it takes in its marketing.

In July, the U.S. House Economic and Consumer Policy Subcommittee held part one of hearings on JUUL’s role the epidemic of nicotine addiction involving young people.

During the July hearing, James Monsees, JUUL co-founder and chief product officer, told the panel the company’s target audience is adult cigarette smokers.

JUUL stopped selling fruity flavors in retail stores last year amid claims it was deliberately marketing its products to young people, but its competitors have not followed suit. Instead, other companies have steeply discounted their devices and left fruity flavors on store shelves. The FDA has been pushing to regulate e-cigarettes, as they have a much higher rate of use among youth in comparison to traditional tobacco products. The vaping industry is worth $3 billion dollars and it’s only expected to grow over the next decade. In an effort to combat this growth, many cities are implementing bans on where you can vape or even sell ejuice starter kits within their city limits. The question remains: how do we make sure that we’re not hurting people who have no intention of quitting smoking with these restrictions?

The letter to JUUL asked if the company has conducted or financed studies on the health implications of using its products and the effectiveness of JUUL in helping users quit smoking. The letter also asked if JUUL has sent information to the FDA.

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