JUUL has been trying to recruit public health researchers, including some associated with universities, in an effort to legitimize its products and potentially polish its image ahead of a September deadline that will ultimately determine whether the company can continue to sell its products within the United States.
In Minnesota, KTSP Channel 5 INVESTIGATES found that JUUL reached out to at least one University of Minnesota researcher with an offer to fund a vaping study.
Michael Parks, a children’s mental health expert at the University of Minnesota Department of Pediatrics, had recently presented a study on youth smoking at a conference in JUUL’s hometown of San Francisco last year when the company’s director of medical affairs emailed him about “potential research opportunities.”
Dr. Parks agreed to talk with the JUUL representative but ultimately declined the offer because it came with stipulations, including being bound to include JUUL in the research in some way.
KTSP also talked to other researchers from universities and other public institutions who had turned away from funding offers from JUUL, including University of California San Francisco research associate Yogi Hale.
“Your moniker as an academic, your institution that you work for, your good name – they get to borrow from. They’re basically vampirically sucking your reputation and trying to bolster theirs,” Mr. Hale said.
JUUL has been trying to rebrand itself as an adult-oriented smoking cessation tool after years of illegally marketing its vapes to minors as trendy, cool, and fun products.
Big Tobacco mentoring JUUL
JUUL’s wildly successful youth-oriented marketing strategies are at the heart of hundreds of lawsuits filed in dozens of states, including a complaint brought by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison. Mr. Ellison alleges that JUUL’s marketing schemes revived the “playbook used by traditional cigarette makers 50 years earlier,” according to KTSP.
Similarly, former Minnesota Attorney General Skip Humphrey, who helped lead the state and other plaintiffs to a $6.5 billion settlement with the tobacco industry in 1998, told KTSP that JUUL is using “pretty much the same tactics” as Big Tobacco did, including “the recruitment of professionals.”
“As part of that settlement, the tobacco industry had to make public a trove of internal documents detailing tactics that Humphrey says are now being replicated by a vaping industry facing similar scrutiny,” KTSP reported.
The company said it is no longer trying to enlist researchers after conducting a “broad review of the company’s practices” but declined to say why it stopped the practice, according to Channel 5 investigators.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave JUUL until September to provide research about the health effects of vaping JUUL products, the appeal of the company’s products to minors, and the effectiveness of JUULs as smoking-cessation devices. The FDA will consider the documentation JUUL provides in making its determination whether it will continue to alow JUUL to sell its vapes in the U.S.
Beasley Allen lawyers Joseph VanZandt and Sydney Everett, together with Mass Torts Section Head Andy Birchfield, are currently representing several individuals who are suing the top U.S. vape maker JUUL for the negative impact its products have had on their lives. Recognizing the critical threat to young people ensnared by nicotine addiction, and its effect on our nation’s educational system, our firm has also joined other nationally recognized law firms to represent school districts and public entities across the country in the fight to stop the school vaping crisis.