E-cigarettes are big business with big dollars to spend. And now it appears those dollars are being directed toward lawmakers. The Associated Press reported market leader Juul gave almost $100,000 to members of Congress based on a recently-released Federal Election Commission report. The majority of that money landed in the hands of Democrats.
Juul is the leader in e-cigarettes or vaping products. As Parentology reported earlier this year, the company is worth an estimated $15 billion dollars. And according to Tobacco Control, an international peer-review journal that studies the tobacco industry, Juul controls 40% of the e-cigarette market based on 2017 market numbers. The company continues to grow, Truth Initiative reporting Juul’s sales had a record increase of 641% from 2016 to 2017.
It appears Juul is using some of its financial prowess to reach out to federal and state lawmakers. The Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan, non-profit organization that tracks money in American politics, has reported Juul’s lobbying spending has increased from $1,640,000 in 2018 to $1,950,000 in 2019. This money has been distributed at the state and federal level as the public concern about the effects of vaping, especially among youth has grown over the past few years.
Many states have already raised the tobacco purchasing age from 18 to 21 years-old. Earlier this year, Senators Mitch McConnell and Tim Kaine introduced federal legislation that would raise the tobacco age to 21. McConnell citing the issue of youth vaping as a driving force behind the legislation, telling USA Today earlier this year, “The latest threat… is an epidemic among teenagers and even middle school students using tobacco products and vaping.”
Juul fully supports this legislation. The company claims it’s not focusing on teens as customers, stating on its website, “We want to be part of the solution to end combustible smoking, not part of a problem to attract youth, never smokers or former smokers to nicotine products.”
But many skeptics fear the recent rise in contributions are a way for Juul to stay under the radar and skirt any truly impactful regulations. Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation stating on its website, “The FDA talks tough with JUUL, but in actuality has done nothing to actually crack down on this totally unregulated product.” The company continued to come under fire in a Congressional hearing just last month with Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., referring to Juul’s marketing tactics as “right out of the Big Tobacco playbook.”
Juul’s lobby spending shows no sign of decreasing. It remains to be seen exactly how that spending will influence further regulations on the e-cigarette industry.