WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined his colleagues in raising serious concerns about the youth vaping epidemic with JUUL — the most popular e-cigarette product among children — and Altria, the manufacturer of Marlboro cigarettes. In letters to JUUL Lab’s new CEO K.C. Crosthwaite and Altria CEO Howard Willard, Brown joined his colleagues in condemning the companies for fueling the youth vaping epidemic and probing the recent corporate marriage of JUUL and Altria. The letter was led by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and signed by Brown and Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tom Udall (D-NM), Ed Markey (D-MA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR).
“For years, JUUL has targeted children, spread misinformation about its products, and refused to conduct unbiased, basic research on its cessation and health claims. Every single one of our federal public health agencies has declared youth vaping an “epidemic”—an epidemic that JUUL, more than any other company, has fueled. As the new CEO of JUUL, you are now responsible for what happens next. It is our hope that you choose to protect children over profits,” the Senators wrote to JUUL CEO K.C. Crosthwaite.
The Senators also posed questions about Altria’s $12.8 billion investment in JUUL, Altria’s recent corporate takeover of JUUL leadership, and reports that Altria has cancelled merger talks with tobacco giant Phillip Morris. On September 25, it was reported that Altria’s Chief Strategy Officer would become the new Chief Executive Officer of JUUL, further cementing the partnership between the two companies.
Federal public health agencies have identified JUUL as being largely responsible for fueling the e-cigarette epidemic among America’s youth. Despite advertisements by JUUL that its e-cigarettes are safer alternatives to cigarettes—which the FDA recently warned were unsubstantiated and illegal claims—no clinical trials have been conducted to prove that JUUL products actually help adult smokers quit cigarettes. And while JUUL announced that it would suspend the sales of all non-menthol flavored products from the market pending FDA review, removing these markets from the market now - after years of targeting children with flavors like mango and cool cucumber - is not enough to even put a dent in the existing crisis of youth nicotine addiction. Today, five million children are vaping, and America has seen a 135 percent increase in youth vaping over the past two years alone.
Brown is also urging JUUL to remove mandatory arbitration clauses and class action waiver provisions from its Terms and Conditions. In a separate letter to JUUL CEO K.C. Crosthwaite, Brown urged the company to remove unfair and unjust arbitration provisions that require consumers to give up their right to seek justice in the court of law. Brown also urged JUUL to remove class action waivers that strip consumers of their ability to band together to collectively hold powerful corporations accountable for wrong doing. The letter was led by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and signed by Brown and Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Pay Leahy (D-VT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Dick Durbin (D-IL).