House Dem accuses Juul of illegally advertising as a way to quit smoking
A House Democrat accused e-cigarette company Juul of making false and misleading advertising claims, and called on the Food and Drug Administration to investigate.
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) said Juul has been marketing itself as a tool to help people quit smoking, claiming its pods are safer and healthier than traditional cigarettes.
Krishnamoorthi, chairman of the Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, launched his own investigation into Juul earlier this summer. The subcommittee in July held a two-day hearing into the company’s marketing and health claims.
In a 53-page letter to acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless, Krishnamoorthi called the testimony during the hearing “extremely concerning” and urged Sharpless to take action “to protect the American public from the fraudulent and unapproved medical claims made by” Juul.
“Your predecessor, Scott Gottlieb … pointed to Juul as a primary cause of the epidemic,” Krishnamoorthi wrote. “Testimony from our hearing supports that conclusion.”
Krishnamoorthi said Juul co-founder James Monsees and the company’s Chief Administrative Officer Ashley Gould made multiple unproven claims under oath that Juul is safer and healthier than traditional cigarettes. He said the two also made numerous references that Juul is a smoking cessation device.
Krishnamoorthi included in his letter a copy of Juul’s presentations to American Indian tribes, where the company pitched its product to be sold at a steep discount in exchange for being promoted as a way to quit smoking by switching to Juul instead.
Juul wants its device to be considered by the FDA as a tobacco product, which has a much lower regulatory bar than a smoking cessation product.
Krishnamoorthi said the FDA is required to look past “overt claims and determine the product’s intended use.”
E-cigarette use has surged among middle and high school students, prompting federal health officials to call the spike in youth vaping an “epidemic.”
The FDA is facing pressure to respond. Agency officials have acknowledged e-cigarettes could be a way to help adult smokers transition to something less harmful, but they need to balance it against the danger of young people getting addicted.
E-cigarette companies claim their products are less harmful than traditional cigarettes, but there is very limited evidence that shows the long-term effects of people using them, or how effective they are at helping people to quit smoking.
In a statement to The Hill, an FDA spokesman said the agency will respond directly to Krishnamoorthi about the concerns in his letter. The spokesman added Juul’s marketing activities are part of the FDA’s broader investigation, and the agency will share more “early next week.”
The spokesman noted that even though the general public may understand the term “smoking cessation” to mean switching from a traditional cigarette to a non-combustible product, the FDA has not approved any e-cigarettes for smoking cessation.
Juul spokesman Ted Kwong said switching and cessation are two different words.
“Switching is not another word for cessation. They mean two very different things,” Kwong said in a statement.
“We are a switching product — our product contains nicotine and is intended to switch adult smokers from one nicotine delivery system to another — not a cessation product and that is clear in all of our marketing and communications,” Kwong said.
Author: Nathaniel Weixel