House Democrats Launch Investigation Into Juul

13 June 2019
Lachlan Markay

In a little noticed letter, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) demanded extensive internal records from the vaping company.

A key House committee has opened an investigation into nicotine vape giant Juul with a letter demanding a huge swath of documents from the company.

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), the chairman of the Oversight Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, wants extensive internal records detailing Juul’s advertising strategies, labeling decisions, its knowledge of the health effects of its products, and details of its business arrangements with Altria, the tobacco giant that purchased a 35-percent stake in Juul last year.

Krishnamoorthi is particularly concerned about reports of skyrocketing Juul use among teens, an issue that has caused the company political troubles for some time.

“The safety and well-being of America’s youth is not for sale,” the congressman wrote in a letter to the company dated June 7. “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.”

A Juul spokesperson acknowledged receipt of the letter and indicated that the company plans to cooperate in the investigation.

“We share the subcommittee’s concerns about youth vaping and welcome the opportunity to share information about our aggressive, industry leading actions to combat youth usage,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “We look forward to a productive dialogue as we continue to combat youth usage and help adult smokers switch from combustible cigarettes, which remain the leading cause of preventable death around the world.”

The launch of Krishnamoorthi’s investigation comes two months after a group of Democratic Senators sent their own set of interrogatories to the company. Krishnamoorthi’s letter comes with more political heft as he can put the weight and resources of the subcommittee he heads behind getting answers from the vaping giant.

Juul maintains that it is determined to prevent teen usage of its product, and recently threw its support behind legislation to raise the national smoking—and vaping—age from 18 to 21.

Behind the scenes, the company’s supporters generally argue that users under the age of 21 make up a small portion of its business, but have been the source of most of Juul’s political and public relations problems over the past couple years. If younger users could be barred from using their product, the argument goes, it would be a net positive for the company.

Juul has nonetheless engaged in an unprecedented lobbying blitz over the past year, hiring scores of federal and state advocates to attempt to ward off more stringent restrictions on its product—including murmurs from FDA last year about an outright ban.

As The Daily Beast reported this week, those advocacy efforts have placed particular emphasis on outreach to the African-American community, which, Juul hopes, would make a potent ally against an effort by congressional Democrats to more heavily restrict Juul sales and usage.

The Daily Beast