Briefing

The FTC is investigating Juul’s marketing practices

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The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is looking into whether the firm, which controls about three-fourths of the U.S. e-cigarette market, has employed deceptive marketing tactics, including targeting minors and using influencers. The regulator is also deciding whether to seek monetary damages. Juul maintains its campaigns target adults exclusively, and that its short-lived influencer program only used influencers over the age of 30. (Wall Street Journal)

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Talking point: The probe comes amid skyrocketing use of e-cigarettes among youth—a study showed a 78 per cent vaping increase in U.S. high-school students between 2017 and 2018; a Canadian study showed a 74 per cent surge for the same period in 16- to 19-year-olds. Regulators in both countries are trying to determine why the products are so appealing to minors; Juul has repeatedly stated that it doesn’t market to youth, and considers the underage use of its products unacceptable. Earlier this week, in an effort to curb sales to minors, Juul started offering US$100 million in incentives to retailers who install a new electronic age-verification system. Flavoured e-cigarettes have been a particular point of focus for regulators; the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tightened restrictions on flavoured vape products in March. It’s also recently proposed moving the deadline up one year to 2021 for manufacturers to apply for market approval; they currently operate without FDA oversight. Meanwhile, Juul has launched a major lobbying push within Canada as Health Canada and a number of provincial regulators consider new regulations for the industry. My colleague Murad reported that Juul has deployed 19 lobbyists in the past year, and has lobbied the federal government at least 16 times since August 2018.