A Juul spokesman told a ninth-grade classroom the controversial vaping device was ‘totally safe’, two teens from the class told Congress.
The company has been accused of aggressively targeting teens in the marketing of its e-cigarette, which contains the same amount of nicotine per ‘pod’ as an entire pack of cigarettes.
On Wednesday, in the first of two congressional hearings to scrutinize Juul’s actions, students-turned-anti-vaping advocates told lawmakers they were urged to promote Juul in their social circles, despite already grappling with Juul addiction.
They said the representative addressed the class in August 2017 – with no teacher present – as part of a seminar on mental health and addiction organized by an external group.
The man allegedly held up a Juul, and said it was ‘a safer alternative than smoking cigarettes’.
When asked what teens should do to help friends addicted to nicotine, the rep reportedly said they ‘should mention Juul’ to their friends.
The company has been accused of aggressively targeting teens in the marketing of its e-cigarette, which contains the same amount of nicotine per ‘pod’ as an entire pack of cigarettes
IS VAPING SAFER THAN TOBACCO?
Even without tobacco, the nicotine in products like Juuls prevents the lungs from cleaning out mucus, according to a new study analyzing nicotine’s impacts on human cells and in sheep.
What’s more, there is more nicotine per vaping session than there is in a cigarette, and while tobacco carries the drug quickly into the bloodstream, vapor does not, leaving more nicotine in the lungs.
The researchers at the University of Kansas Medical Center found that, as a result, e-cigarette users gradually experience a build-up of phlegm, making them more susceptible to illness, increasing the risk of a cough, and pave the way to asthma or chronic bronchitis.
And that process is faster in younger e-cigarette users, they found.
The study, published in June, adds to the growing body of evidence that vaping nicotine may not be as harmless as it was pitched to be.
‘I believe the presenter was sending mixed messages by saying Juul was ‘totally safe’ and following up every totally safe statement with ‘but we don’t want you as customers,” 17-year-old former vaper Caleb Mintz, now a youth advocate against e-cigarettes, told the hearing, according to CNN.
He added: ‘I believe that the presenter was playing on the rebellious side of teens, where when teens are told not to do something, they are more likely to do it.’
Mintz was accompanied by his friend, 16-year-old Phillip Fuhrman, who said he was addicted to Juuling at the time of the seminar.
Fuhrman said Mintz put a question to the Juul speaker on his behalf, asking what he should advise a friend who is addicted to nicotine.
‘Since Caleb was not specific on what kind of nicotine he was addicted to, whether it was an e-cigarette or cigarettes, the speaker thought that he was talking about cigarettes, and he said that he should mention Juul to his friend,’ Fuhrman said.
The latest CDC figures, which experts say are likely an underestimate, show 3.6 million teens vape, and Juuls are the preferred method.
US health officials, including former FDA director Dr Scott Gottlieb, brand it an ‘epidemic’ that has ‘come out of nowhere.’
Juul’s leadership, who will address the House Oversight Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy on Thursday, said the representative was dispatched as part of a youth addiction education program, which has since been terminated because ‘its purpose…was clearly misconstrued’ as promotion.
Mintz’s mother Meredith Berkman, who co-founded Parents Against Vaping E-Cigarettes with Fuhrman’s mother Dorian Fuhrman, does not see Juul’s lecturing as innocent or misunderstood.
‘Juul sent a representative to talk to our kids about its product under the guise of education,’ Berkman told the committee.
Berkman said, when she found out about the seminar after the fact, she contacted the school, who ‘had no idea’ Juul had been present.
She then called the organizing group to ask why Juul was present, and was told that it was an accident; that they had been looking for an anti-Juul speaker, but turned to Juul to help them source said speaker.
Berkman said she felt the group’s actions were ‘naive, definitely, but in good faith.’
Her comments were met with sympathy and support from The Squad members Reps Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley, who were part of the panel.
‘As a mother, I can sense your frustration. … I just want you to know you have the truth on your side. And just be stronger for that,’ Rep Tlaib told Berkman.
Rep Pressley added: ‘We thank you for your fierceness and your advocacy.’