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Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi

Representing the 8th District of Illinois

Chairman Krishnamoorthi of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy Opens Investigation into JUUL’s Role in the Youth e-Cigarette Epidemic

June 10, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Chairman Raja Krishnamoorthi of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy launched an investigation into the youth e-cigarette epidemic and whether or not JUUL has actively marketed its product to American children. In a document request sent on Friday, Chairman Krishnamoorthi urged the company to provide memoranda and communications regarding its social media practices, advertising, and the product’s long-term impact on consumer health.

A signed copy of the letter is available here and the text follows below.

 

June 7, 2019

Mr. Kevin Burns

Chief Executive Officer

JUUL Labs, Inc.

560 20th Street

San Francisco, CA 94107

 

Dear Mr. Burns:

The Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy is investigating the youth e-cigarette epidemic.  JUUL accounts for 75% of the U.S. e-cigarette market.[1]  The U.S. Surgeon General, the former U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services have declared that e-cigarette use among teenagers is an epidemic.[2]  All squarely pointed to JUUL as a primary cause of that epidemic.[3] 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that tobacco use among high school students has increased nearly 40% in the past year—an increase fueled by e-cigarette use.[4]  In 2018, over 20% of teenagers reported e-cigarette use—a 78% increase from 2017 figures.[5]  In addition, in 2018, nearly 5% of middle schoolers reported e-cigarette use—a 48% surge since 2017.[6]

The safety and well-being of America’s youth is not for sale.  I am extremely concerned about reports that JUUL’s high nicotine content is fueling addiction and that frequent JUUL use is sending kids across the country into rehab, some as young as 15.[7]  At 5% nicotine weight content, your products have nearly three times the nicotine by weight allowed in the European Union.[8]

Stanford University researchers have concluded, in a report published earlier this year, that JUUL’s marketing strategy from the company’s 2015 debut to 2018 was “patently youth oriented.”[9]  If the Stanford researchers are correct, then JUUL intentionally sought to profit at the expense of the health of American children.   

To assist the Subcommittee, I request that you produce, by June 21, 2019, the following documents and information for the period of January 1, 2013 to the present:​

 

  1. All documents, including memoranda and communications, referring or relating to:

a. the impact of JUUL’s marketing strategy on individuals under the age of 18 (minors);

b. JUUL’s earliest indication that minors comprised a substantial share of its social media followers;

c. JUUL’s research and/or reference to past tobacco advertising, including but not limited to its use of the University of California, San Francisco’s Truth Tobacco Industry Documents Library;

d. the involvement of behavioral science in your digital advertising, including identifying all behavioral scientists involved;

e. JUUL’s actions and or strategy to publicly associate and/or equate and/or compare nicotine and caffeine;

f. JUUL’s Vaporized campaign and the use of the hashtag #vaporized; and

g. deleted social media content and any audience analytics information related to the social media content;

  1. A list identifying:

a. all of JUUL’s advertising buys, including the dates the advertisements were active; 

b. every celebrity, influencer, and marketing agency that was engaged by JUUL, as well as the dates of the engagement and the amounts spent by JUUL; and

c. every celebrity, influencer, and marketing agency JUUL solicited to promote its products that did not engage;

  1. All documents, including memoranda and communications, referring or relating to the impact on minors and/or new nicotine users of your product’s physical design, ease of use, and/or ease of concealment, including but not limited to all focus groups (whether or not specific to minors or new nicotine users);
  1. All documents, including memoranda and communications, referring or relating to JUUL’s process for

a. identifying and blocking Twitter followers who are minors, including identifying the individuals and/or third-party vendors responsible for doing so, and the number of accounts blocked; and

b. identifying and removing minors from JUUL’s email lists;

 

    1. State how many individuals on JUUL’s email lists do not currently have their ages verified;
    1. A list of all clinical trials in the United States relating to whether JUUL helps smokers quit smoking combustible cigarettes, including all documents reflecting the findings of those trials;
    1. All documents, including memoranda and communications, referring or relating to:

    a. existing combustible cigarette smokers’ preference/desire for a “throat hit” in a product; and

    b. people who use JUUL in addition to smoking combustible cigarettes;

    1. All documents, including memoranda and communications, referring or relating to a link between JUUL and any negative health effects, including but not limited to seizures, respiratory issues, impaired attention, impaired memory, depression, anxiety, and effects on the brain development of minors;
    1. All documents, including memoranda and communications, referring or relating to:

    a. JUUL’s decisions to label its product 5% strength and to use a measurement by weight instead of by volume;

    b. how and why JUUL decided to market products in the United States at the 5% nicotine level in the United States rather than other, lower nicotine levels;

    c. research and studies regarding the link between JUUL’s nicotine formulation and Cmax and/or Tmax measurements; and

    d. JUUL’s cigarette equivalency statements and disclosures, including whether JUUL considered how much of the nicotine in a combustible cigarette stays in a cigarette after smoking to make its equivalency determination;

    1. All documents, including memoranda and communications, referring or relating to consumer complaints, anecdotal evidence, and/or stakeholder input regarding:

    a. health issues alleged to have been caused by JUUL;

    b. addiction in minors alleged to have been caused by JUUL; and

    c. minor and/or new user confusion and/or misunderstanding about the amount of nicotine contained in your product;

    1. All documents, including memoranda and communications, referring or relating to presentations and/or sales and marketing analysis JUUL presented to, or prepared for,  potential JUUL investors referring or relating to the product’s use in smoking cessation, use in current smokers and non-smokers, and minor use, including but not limited to presentations to Altria, Japan Tobacco International, Tiger Capital, Fidelity Investments, British American Tobacco, Tao Capital, Capital Group, Goldman Sachs, Perella Weinberg Partners, Sivia Capital, and Sand Hill Angels, LLC;
    1. A list, with a separate entry for each JUUL pod flavor, at each nicotine level, indicating:

    a. the date each JUUL pod flavor was placed on the market, in each nicotine level;

    b. how each JUUL pod flavor was placed on the market, including where it was available online and the location of physical retail locations at which it was available;

    c. the yearly online sales revenue for each JUUL pod flavor, at each nicotine level, for each year on the market; and

    d. the yearly retail sales revenue for each JUUL pod flavor, at each nicotine level, for each year on the market;

    1. All documents, including memoranda and communications, that JUUL’s Enterprise Markets Team provides and/or has provided to health insurers, employers, and/or health care providers;
    1. All documents, including memoranda and communications, reflecting:
    1. JUUL’s initial research, conducted before the product went to market, on smokers and on non-smokers; and
    2. research and/or studies reflecting that JUUL is more addictive than combustible cigarettes;
    1. All forms of agreements, including non-disclosure agreements, that employees signed as a condition of receiving their bonuses from the $2 billion Altria special dividend;
    1. All documents, including memoranda and communications, referring or relating to proposals, plans, and/or intended partnerships or collaborations between JUUL and any cannabis-related companies, including but not limited to Cronos Group;
    1. All documents and presentation materials used by JUUL’s Government Affairs Office in correspondence with federal and state regulators including, but not limited to, health claims, addictive properties, and effectiveness as a smoking cessation device; and
    1. All documents that JUUL has produced to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office, and the Food and Drug Administration.

     The Committee on Oversight and Reform is the principal oversight committee of the House of Representatives and has broad authority to investigate “any matter” at “any time” under House Rule X.  An attachment to this letter provides additional instructions for responding to the Committee’s request.  If you have any questions regarding this request, please contact Subcommittee staff at (202) 225-5051. 

     

    Sincerely,   

                                                      Raja Krishnamoorthi

                                                                 Chairman

                                 Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy

    Enclosure

    cc:       The Honorable Michael Cloud, Ranking Member

     

    [1] Juul Explores Opening Its Own E-Cigarette Store, Wall Street Journal (May 30, 2019) (online at www.wsj.com/articles/juul-explores-opening-its-own-e-cigarette-stores-in-u-s-11559235262).

    [2] Food and Drug Administration, Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on New Steps to Address Epidemic of Youth E-cigarette Use (Sept. 12, 2018) (online at www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/statement-fda-commissioner-scott-gottlieb-md-new-steps-address-epidemic-youth-e-cigarette-use); Department of Health and Human Services, Surgeon General Releases Advisory on E-cigarette Epidemic Among Youth (Dec. 18, 2018) (online at www.hhs.gov/about/news/2018/12/18/surgeon-general-releases-advisory-e-cigarette-epidemic-among-youth.html); Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Sales of JUUL E-cigarettes Skyrocket, Posing Danger to Youth (Oct. 2, 2018) (online at www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2018/p1002-e-Cigarettes-sales-danger-youth.html); Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Progress Erased:  Youth Tobacco Use Increased During 2017-2018 (Feb. 11, 2019) (online at www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2019/p0211-youth-tobacco-use-increased.html); The Future of E-cigarettes Depends on the Industry’s Willingness to Protect Teens, Washington Post (Mar. 20, 2019) (online at www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/03/19/future-e-cigarettes-depends-industrys-willingness-protect-teens/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.907f5dc750cb).

    [3] Id.; Scott Gottlieb’s Last Word as FDA Chief:  Juul Drove a Youth Addiction Crisis, Vox (Apr. 5, 2019) (online at www.vox.com/science-and-health/2019/4/5/18287073/vaping-juul-fda-scott-gottlieb).

    [4] CDC Blames Spike in Teen Tobacco Use on Vaping, Popularity of Juul, CNBC (Feb. 11, 2019) (online at www.cnbc.com/2019/02/11/e-cigarettes-single-handedly-drives-spike-in-teen-tobacco-use-cdc.html).

    [5] Food and Drug Administration, 2018 NYTS Data:  A Startling Rise in Youth E-cigarette Use (Feb 2, 2019) (online at  www.fda.gov/tobacco-products/youth-and-tobacco/2018-nyts-data-startling-rise-youth-e-cigarette-use).

    [6] Id.

    [7] Vaping Sent This Teenager Into Rehab.  His Parents Blame Juul’s Heavy Nicotine Dose, NBC News (Jan. 8, 2019) (online at www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/vaping-sent-teenager-rehab-his-parents-blame-JUUL-s-heavy-n956356).

    [8] Juul:  The Rise of a $38bn E-cigarette Phenomenon, BBC News (Jan. 6, 2019) (online at www.bbc.com/news/business-46654063).

    [9] Robert K Jackler, et al., JUUL Advertising Over its First Three Years on the Market (Jan. 31, 2019) (online at http://tobacco.stanford.edu/tobacco_main/publications/JUUL_Marketing_Stanford.pdf).