E-cigarette giant Juul is looking at a fresh investigation into whether the company “actively” marketed its products to children, an allegation that has dogged the company even as it now says it’s working to cut off kids’ access to its products.
This newest investigation from a House subcommittee—which follows a separate investigation into Juul announced in April by 11 Democratic senators—centers on Juul’s role in a worsening “epidemic” of youth vaping. In a letter to Juul CEO Kevin Burns last week, Raja Krishnamoorthi, chairman of the House Oversight Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, said that he was “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.”
Juul has been the subject of a number of investigations into whether the company knew that its products appealed to youth after its launch—including by using young-looking models and introducing fruity flavors—but did not immediately act to overhaul its advertising. In the letter to Burns, Krishnamoorthi requested that Juul produce a massive trove of documents dating back to 2013 and through the present, including info about its ad buys as well as celebrities and influencers contacted by Juul for the purpose of marketing.
Krishnamoorthi also requested that the company fork over information related to the company’s marketing strategy, its knowledge of the appeal of its products to youth, and since-deleted social media content. The company was additionally asked about its efforts to block any teen followers on Twitter—Juul has been accused of having a disproportionately large number teen followers on the platform, though it denies that is the case—as well as records related to its business dealings with Marlboro maker Altria, which bought a minority stake in Juul last year in a deal worth nearly $13 billion.
Reached for comment by email, a spokesperson for Juul told Gizmodo that it “share[s] the subcommittee’s concerns about youth vaping and welcome[s] the opportunity to share information about our aggressive, industry leading actions to combat youth usage.” The spokesperson went on to point to Juul’s various initiatives as part of its so-called Action Plan to keep its products out of the hands of kids, including by yanking its fruity flavors from brick and mortar stores and shutting down some of its social media accounts like Instagram and Facebook.
“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 spokesperson said.
Krishnamoorthi requested that Juul provide the laundry list of internal documents to the subcommittee by June 21.