WASHINGTON (Reuters)- The members of a U.S. congressional panel provided a reference of internal company documents saying that the e-cigarette maker Juul Labs Inc. has funded “holistic health education” intending to market directly to the school-going children.
A cache of internal Juul emails along with other documents was released by constitutionalists on a subcommittee of the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform. The staff of the committee describes it as early efforts to visit the schools and convey its messages directly to school children.
Juul Labs, Inc. promotion of vaping devices by social media influencers, years after its launch in 2015, also came under scrutiny.
The co-founder and chief product officer, James Monsees informed that the target audience has been adult citrate smokers from the starting
The reference documents of the company that were released mentioned a payment of $134,000 to set up a five-week , “holistic health education” summer camp at a Maryland charter school, selecting children from third through 12 grades, and providing $10,000 to schools using the company’s “youth prevention and education” programs for students, including those who are held using e-cigarette products.
You don’t think that sounds strange at all?” Representative Katie Hill, a Democrat, questioned Juul’s chief administrative officer, Ashley Gould.
“All of these educational efforts were intended to keep youth from using the product,” Gould answered.
When Juul recognized how the participation of school children could be perceived as negative, “we stopped the program,” she commented.
In a report after the hearing, Juul commented that the $134,000 donation was to “facilitate already-existing community outreach and youth-prevention programs,” and said the company “did not have any direct interaction with the students.”
Several members of the committees believed that the initiatives taken by this E-cigarette manufacturer looked similar to previous efforts by the tobacco industry to reach the young generation under the pretense of smoking prevention programs.
Gould stated that Marlboro maker Altria Group Inc. (MO.N) owns 35%, Juul. It stopped the program last year after they recognized the past moves of the tobacco industry.
A New York City high school student, Caleb Mintz, 17, gave a piece of evidence at a separate hearing on Wednesday that a representative from Juul came to his school on account of educational program on mental health and addiction last year. He said in a Thursday’s interview that students got “mixed messages” about the product, being told it was safe but not to purchase it.
Members of the committee also questioned Gould and Monsees over the use of social media influencers to advertise the vaping devices manufactured by Juul.
Monsees stated that “younger consumers age 25 to 34 was going to be the target of our initial campaign,” Monsees said. “They would be more receptive to new technology solutions,” such as the Juul device. Amidst an increased use of e-cigarettes in 2018 in teenagers- a 78% rise among students of the high school from 2017 to 2018 as per federal reports-Juul stated it terminated all social media advertising last fall. They also pulled several flavored nicotine pods, except mint, tobacco, and menthol, from retail stores, which characterized more than 50% of the company’s sales at that time, informed Monsees.