ALL NEWS

Juul exec: Never intended electronic cigarette for teens

Jul 25, 2019, 6:18 PM
House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee chair Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., speaks a...
House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee chair Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., speaks as he questions JUUL Labs co-founder and Chief Product Officer James Monsees during a subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 25, 2019, on the youth nicotine epidemic. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A top executive for Juul Labs said that his company never intended its electronic cigarettes to be adopted by underage teenagers, as House lawmakers on Thursday accused the company of fueling the vaping craze among high schoolers.

Co-founder James Monsees testified that Juul developed its blockbuster vaping device and flavor pods for adult smokers who want to stop. He acknowledged statistics showing “a significant number of underage Americans are using e-cigarettes, including Juul products.”

“Juul Labs isn’t big tobacco,” Monsees told members of a House subcommittee, adding that “combating underage use” is the company’s highest priority.

Thursday’s hearing marks the first time Juul has been called before Congress, despite growing scrutiny from parents, politicians and public health advocates. Federal law bans the sale of e-cigarettes to those under 18.

Drawing from some 180,000 documents collected from the company, House Democrats peppered Monsees with questions about the early ads and marketing that they contend led to the current wave of underage vaping by U.S. teens.

“We must trace the origins that led to this epidemic,” said Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, who chairs the economic subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

The Democrat convened two hearings this week after launching an investigation last month into Juul’s marketing, technology, and business practices. The privately held company has grown into a multibillion-dollar business on the success of its small, discrete vaping device and nicotine pods.

Krishnamoorthi questioned Monsees about what he said were similarities between the design of the original Juul device and packaging for Marlboro cigarettes. He cited minutes from a 2016 Juul board meeting that mentioned a settlement with Philip Morris International, which sells Marlboros outside the U.S., to remove triangle and diamond shapes from Juul branding. Monsees said Juul paid “zero dollars” as part of the settlement.

“There was never any intent,” to copy Marlboro, Monsees said. “The last thing we wanted was to be confused with any major tobacco company.”

Last year, Altria, the parent company of Marlboro-maker Philip Morris USA, bought a 35% stake in Juul.

During his testimony, Monsees reiterated past steps taken by Juul, including shutting down its Facebook and Instagram pages and pulling several of its flavored pods out of retail stores to keep Juuls out of the hands of teens.

Monsees said he understands the negative scrutiny of his company, but assured lawmakers Juul’s aim is to “eliminate cigarettes for good.”

“This is an industry that has done wrong for a truly long period of time,” Monsees said. “We are changing that from the inside out with products delivered by innovative people and a company that is 100% committed to changing the fabric of this market.”

Neither Juul nor any vaping product is approved yet to help smokers quit.

Later in the hearing, lawmakers questioned Juul’s chief administrative officer, Ashley Gould, about documents they said showed Juul offered $10,000 to some schools for anti-vaping educational programs. Gould said Juul only gave funding to six schools or youth programs and discontinued the program in 2018 after learning that tobacco companies had funded similar anti-smoking programs decades ago.

E-cigarettes typically heat a flavored nicotine solution into an inhalable aerosol. They are largely viewed as less harmful than traditional paper-and-tobacco cigarettes and some adult smokers use them as an alternative source of nicotine.

On Wednesday, Stanford University Professor Robert Jackler, an expert in tobacco advertising, testified that Juul’s early promotions — including youthful models, colorful advertising and launch parties across the U.S. — mimicked tactics pioneered by cigarette makers. Jackler said Monsees, a Stanford alumnus, had personally credited the professor’s research on tobacco advertising with shaping Juul’s marketing in a meeting last year.

Monsees told lawmakers the comment was misinterpreted. Instead, he said Juul had learned the “bad actions” of those companies and what “not to do,” from Jackler’s archive of tobacco advertising.

Juul grew out of graduate work by Monsees and co-founder Adam Bowen, both Stanford design students.

The company’s rise has closely tracked an explosion of underage vaping. Last year, 1 in 5 U.S. high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the last month, according to government survey figures. Juul has become a scourge in U.S. schools with students vaping in restrooms, hallways, and even classrooms.

Another committee member, Rep. Katie Hill, D-Calif, said that internal Juul documents indicate the company had at one point sought to aggressively use social media to market its products, with potentially hundreds of social media influencers. Influencers are social media users that have large online followings and established credibility with their audience, according to Hill. She said the company told the subcommittee ahead of the hearing that it used influencers sparingly.

Monsees said that he wasn’t familiar with the contracts she cited and told Hill the company had tried “a number of different things.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gained authority to regulate e-cigarettes in 2016, but the agency has repeatedly postponed a deadline for vaping companies to submit their products for health and safety review. Earlier this month, a federal judge sided with public health groups who sued the FDA and ruled that vaping companies must submit their products for review by next May.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

Travelers wait in for a TSA security check at the Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles,...
DAVID KOENIG ASSOCIATED PRESS

Pre-pandemic sized crowds descend on US airports for holiday

TSA is reporting crowds of pre-pandemic size are traveling this Independence Day.
2 days ago
The National Weather Service of Salt Lake City says there is a red flag warning in effect for Weste...
Lindsay Aerts

Fourth of July weekend weather conditions ripe for fires

The National Weather Service of Salt Lake City says there is a red flag warning in effect for Western Utah. It warns that many fires are human caused.
2 days ago
Salt Lake County is working to make sure its golf courses don't use as much water in the drought....
Martha Harris

Salt Lake County says it has decreased water-use on its golf courses

Salt Lake County says it has back water usage on its golf courses. The county says it has done by changing how they water.
2 days ago
Back view of two ambulances...
Don Brinkerhoff

Herriman mother saved by off-duty police officer

A Herriman woman feels lucky to be alive after her raft is tipped over and she nearly drowned last week.
2 days ago
Residents stand in front of building destroyed by missiles in Ukraine...
FRANCESCA EBEL Associated Press

Russian missiles kill at least 19 in Ukraine’s Odesa region

The Ukrainian president's office said three Kh-22 missiles fired by Russian bombers struck an apartment building and a campsite.
2 days ago
The Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival will make its in-person comeback from July 28 to Aug. 7. Courte...
Devin Oldroyd

The Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival is coming back to Salt Lake City

The Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival will make its in-person comeback from July 28 to Aug. 7.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Juul exec: Never intended electronic cigarette for teens