The Iowa Attorney General has been tapped to lead an e-cigarette company’s initiatives to reduce tobacco use in those under the age of 21.
San Francisco-based JUUL Labs, the maker of the e-cigarette device, announced Wednesday it would support state and federal initiatives to raise the minimum purchasing age for tobacco products as a part of a $30 million initiative over the next three years.
Part of that funding initiative includes research and a panel of public health officials and experts assembled and led by Tom Miller, the Iowa Attorney General, to keep e-cigarettes — or electronic nicotine delivery systems — out of the hands of young people.
“JUUL has pledged to work with me and others to keep their products from kids,” Miller said in a statement Wednesday on the Attorney General’s website.
In its announcement, the company said it was engaging with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s nationwide “blitz” campaign announced Tuesday to crack down on the sale of e-cigarettes to underage individuals in brick-and-mortar and online retailers.
“The blitz, which started April 6 and will continue to the end of the month, has already revealed numerous violations of the law,” according to an FDA statement on the campaign.
The FDA also contacted manufacturers, and sent an official request for information directly to JUUL Labs on Tuesday. The federal agency requested documents to help officials “to better understand the reportedly high rates of youth use and the particular youth appeal of these products,” according to the letter.
According to the FDA, more than two million middle and high school students were used e-cigarettes in 2016.
Other studies, including one from the medical journal the BMJ, have shown young individuals who vape are more likely to take up smoking later on.
JUUL Labs officials stated in the announcement they hope to continue helping adult smokers transition from cigarettes, but has recognized the fact young people are using their products is an issue.
“JUUL executives have stated from the start that they do not want kids using the product,” Miller said in the statement. “They sell directly only to people age 21 and older. JUUL has been outstandingly successful in the adult market.
“They don’t need sales to adolescents to succeed. Indeed, current youth use is far more harmful to JUUL than the cash generated.”
In 1998, Miller and attorneys general of 45 other states signed a settlement agreement with the four largest tobacco companies in the United States to settle suits on state health care costs associated with treating smoking-related illnesses.
The agreement — the largest in U.S. history — called for companies to pay the 46 states $206 billion over 25 years, and continue annual payments after that based on the number of cigarettes sold nationwide.
Iowa received about $50.9 million from that settlement this month. The state has received more than $1.2 billion in payments in the past 20 years.
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