WASHINGTON (Reuters) – E-cigarette maker Juul Labs Inc funded a “holistic well being training” camp as a part of efforts to market on to school-aged youngsters, members of a U.S. congressional panel mentioned on Thursday, citing inside firm paperwork.
Juul model vaping pens are seen on the market in a store in Manhattan in New York Metropolis, New York, U.S., February 6, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Democrats on a subcommittee of the Home of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform launched a cache of inside Juul emails and different paperwork that committee workers described as early makes an attempt to “enter faculties and convey its messaging on to teenage youngsters.”
Juul’s use of social media influencers to advertise its vaping units within the years after it launched in 2015 additionally got here underneath scrutiny.
James Monsees, Juul’s co-founder and chief product officer, advised the committee that the corporate’s audience from the start has been grownup cigarette people who smoke.
Amongst efforts cited within the Juul paperwork launched have been a $134,000 fee to arrange a five-week “holistic well being training” summer season camp at a Maryland constitution faculty, recruiting youngsters from third by 12th grades, and providing $10,000 to colleges utilizing the corporate’s “youth prevention and training” packages for college students, together with these caught utilizing e-cigarette merchandise.
“You don’t suppose that sounds unusual in any respect?” Consultant Katie Hill, a Democrat, requested Juul’s chief administrative officer, Ashley Gould.
“All of those instructional efforts have been meant to maintain youth from utilizing the product,” Gould responded. When Juul realized how the college involvement may very well be perceived as unfavorable, “we stopped this system,” she mentioned.
In a press release after the listening to, Juul mentioned the $134,000 donation was to “facilitate already-existing group outreach and youth-prevention packages,” and mentioned the corporate “didn’t have any direct interplay with the scholars.”
A number of committee members mentioned Juul’s initiatives appeared just like previous efforts by the tobacco business to succeed in younger folks underneath the guise of smoking prevention packages. Gould mentioned Juul, which is 35 % owned by Marlboro maker Altria Group Inc (MO.N), halted its program final yr as soon as it turned conscious of the tobacco business’s previous strikes.
Caleb Mintz, 17, a NY city highschool pupil, testified at a separate listening to on Wednesday Juul consultant got here to his faculty as a part of an academic program on psychological well being and habit final yr. He mentioned in an interview Thursday that college students obtained “blended messages” in regards to the product, being advised it was protected however to not purchase it.
Mintz mentioned after the listening to that the Juul presentation gave the impression to be “taking part in to the facet of teenagers as rebellious. When a teen is advised to not do one thing, they’re extra more likely to do it.”
Members of the committee additionally quizzed Gould and Monsees over the usage of social media influencers to advertise Juul’s vaping units.
Firm executives early on agreed that “youthful customers age 25 to 34 was going to be the goal of our preliminary marketing campaign,” Monsees mentioned. “They might be extra receptive to new expertise options,” such because the Juul system.
Amid an unlimited uptick in teenage use of e-cigarettes in 2018 — a 78% enhance amongst highschool college students from 2017 to 2018, in keeping with federal knowledge — Juul mentioned it ended all social media promoting final fall. Juul additionally pulled many flavored nicotine pods, besides mint, menthol and tobacco, from retail shops, which Monsees mentioned represented greater than half of the corporate’s gross sales at the moment.
Reporting by Chris Kirkham in Los Angeles and Bryan Pietsch in Washington; Enhancing by Leslie Adler