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Industry allies and opponents according to JUUL

11 April 2024

A recent exposé by The Examination has revealed how Public Health England’s leading tobacco control official advised American vape company, JUUL. According to the exposé, based on internal documents of the company, in June 2017, “Martin Dockrell, thepublic health official responsible for vaping policy dined with Juul executives and advised them on how to launch its products in the U.K.”

The Examination also reported, “Doctors and public health experts have said the U.K.’s approach of promoting e-cigarettes as a safer alternative to smoking, a stance which Dockrell has been influential in shaping, has contributed to the surge in youth vaping among British teenagers.” and refers to Deborah Arnott, CEO of ASH- London who joined Dockrell in the June 2017 dinner with JUUL. Several JUUL internal documents refer to how they can utilize Arnott to benefit them. For example, a June 17, 2018 document, entitled, “Deborah Arnott ASH” says:

‘The agency are apparently keen to meet us and Deborah seemed open to helping us get to a higher level than the assessors’

Another JUUL document dated July 19, 2018 entitled,Meeting Brief: Deborah Arnott” says:

‘From the UK perspective, we’d like Deborah to agree to work together with us on a hypothesis that we can take to MHRA for official meetings on a potential medical application.  If she agrees to this and subsequently agrees that our licensing approach is agreeable to ASH, then we have a powerful lobbying force behind any particular application we might have (read: if MHRA tell us no. ASH will give them hell).’

More than 40 countries and jurisdictions, including Brunei, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Singapore and Thailand have banned e-cigarettes. Some of these countries have come under pressure from tobacco harm reduction advocates who have promoted to many countries the U.K.’s legalisation of e-cigarettes as a safer alternative to smoking and a smoking cessation tool, despite insufficient evidence for such claims, and a growing youth vaping problem in the U.K. and the world.

In 2018, Altria paid US$12.8 billion to purchase a 35% share of JUUL. At that time, Altria valued JUUL at US$38 billion. In May 2019, the Attorney General for the state of North Carolina sued JUUL for allegedly targeting young people in designing, marketing and selling its e-cigarettes and for misrepresenting the potency and danger of nicotine in its products.

In 2021, JUUL agreed to pay North Carolina US$40 million over 6 years and to stop marketing to those below 21 years, stop advertising on social media and near schools, and abide by other restrictions. The state will use the settlement money to fund treatment programs for teens who use e-cigarettes and for other anti-vaping measures. 

As part of the settlement, JUUL will make about 4 million of its internal documents from 2015 through to 2019 on its business correspondence, reports, marketing plans, advertisements, sales data and internal research, available in a searchable public depository. Over 1 million documents are now accessible on the University of California’s library of tobacco industry internal documents. The JUUL LAB collection of documents are made available in partnership with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries. 

Among the JUUL internal documents, a 20 March 2019 “Policy and government affairs” document identifies 21 pro-e-cigarette individuals as JUUL’s “current allies” (Table 1). 

Table 1: Harm reduction advocates whom JUUL regarded as its “allies”

Current Allies
Dave AbramsNYUProfessor
Ray NiauraNYUProfessor
David SweanorUniversity of OttawaProfessor
Sally SatelYaleMD
Konstantinos FarsalinosOnassis Cardiac Surgery Center, GreeceMD Professor
Clive BatesCounterfactualIndependent
Jeff StierConsumer ChoiceSr Fellow
Carl PhillipsDaily Vaper Anti-THRliesEpidemiologist, Independent
Riccardo PolosaUniversity of CataniaDirector Institute of Internal Medicine and Clinical Immunology, in charge of the University’s Center for Tobacco Research
Neil BenowitzUCSFProfessor
Linda BauldU of Sterling, UKProfessor
Martin DockrellPHE, UKTobacco lead
Deborah ArnottASH UK[sic]CEO
Ann McNeillKing’s College, LondonProfessor
Robert WestUniversity CollegeProfessor
Michael SiegelBoston U, School of Public HealthProfessor
Joel NitzkinR Street InstituteMD, Fellow
Sarah JakesNNAChair, Board
Greg ConleyAVAPresident
Scott BallinIndependentConsultant

In September 2018, David Abrams, Clive Bates, Raymond Niaura and David Sweanor sent a letter to the Director General of WHO, stating, “WHO should reject prohibition and embrace ‘tobacco harm reduction’ and risk-proportionate regulation of tobacco and nicotine products.” The letter was timed to be released just before the eighth session of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO FCTC (COP8). The D-G is listed by JUUL as an “opponent” (Table 2).

In October 2021, these four individuals along with other “allies” listed in Table 1 added their signature to an open letter signed by 100 individuals addressed to the Parties to the WHO FCTC stating, “Smoke-free nicotine products offer a promising route to reducing the harms arising from smoking. There is compelling evidence that smoke-free products are much less harmful than cigarettes …”

Table 2: Renowned tobacco control advocates whom JUUL labeled as “current opponents”

Current Opponents
Stan GlantzUCSF, Center for Tobacco Control Research and EducationProfessor
Margarete KulikUCSF, Center for Tobacco Control Research and EducationProfessor
Matt MyersCampaign for Tobacco-Free kidsPresident
Robin KovalTruth InitiativeCEO
Moon-Shong TangNYUProfessor
Simon ChapmanU of SydneyEmeritus Professor
Tedros Adhanom GhebreyesusWHO FCTCDirector General
Dr Vera Luiza da CostaFCTCHead Convention Secretariat
Brian KingCDC, Office on Smoking and HealthDeputy Director for Research Translation
Jonathan M. SametUSC Keck School of MedicineMD MS

Industry front groups, such as CAPHRA has used the research and quotes from these individuals in lobbying governments to accept e-cigarettes.

Clive Bates, described as a “useful loudmouth” in a February 2018 JUUL correspondence, has been a vociferous advocate pushing tobacco harm reduction in several ASEAN countries.

JUUL entered the Philippines in 2019, and according to tobacco control advocate, Dr Maricar Limpin, head of ASH Philippines, the company mushroomed offering an assortment of flavors that seem tailor-made to appeal to teens. When legislators began debating a vape regulation bill, Bates advocated in 2019 for the adoption of the bill and sent his Comments for the Joint Committee hearing on electronic cigarettes to the health and trade committee chairs of the House of Representatives, and continued to make statements in the media such as how the vape bill “strikes a good balance between consumer protection and giving ordinary people access to less harmful alternatives to cigarettes”.

In Malaysia, when nicotine was still listed as poison under the Poison Act, Bates had reportedly claimed at a NST Insight Forum in September 2021, “population data shows that an abnormally rapid decline in smoking was seen when vaping was introduced.” In December 2021, Bates spoke in a tobacco harm reduction conference persuading the medical community to consider supporting risk-proportionate strategies to regulate harm reduced products such as vape and that the risks associated with vape are unlikely to exceed 5% of those associated with smoked tobacco.

Bates, along with several other JUUL “allies”, also contributed to the Philip Morris funded (via the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World) report, ‘No Fire, No Smoke: The Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction 2018 by Knowledge-ActionChange.

WHO FCTC Article 5.3 calls on governments to protect public health policies from commercial and other vested interest of the tobacco industry and those who further its interests.

For more information: Asian Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2023, ASEAN Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2023, for tobacco harm reduction: Electronic Smoking Devices Resource Hub

 

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