Editor’s note: This commentary is a response to: “Why Big Tobacco’s investment in e-cigarette maker Juul ought to alarm you,” March 3, 2019.
JUUL Labs is committed to improving the lives of adult smokers by eliminating cigarettes, the world’s leading cause of preventable death.
We were recently joined by an unlikely partner when Altria invested in our company. We understand the skepticism expressed by Dr. John Maa in his CALmatters commentary. We were certainly skeptical too. But we became convinced by actions, not words, that this partnership could help accelerate our growing success in switching adult smokers.
Before Altria’s investment, we put forth demanding criteria to ensure any investor was committed to our mission.
Altria did that when it promised: “We are taking significant action to prepare for a future where adult smokers overwhelmingly choose non-combustible products over cigarettes.”
Second, an investor would have to back this commitment up with tangible actions and value. Altria has agreed to provide us with services that will accelerate our ability to get JUUL into the hands of current adult smokers, such as direct communications through cigarette-pack inserts and direct mailings to their adult customer databases.
Finally, an investor would allow JUUL Labs to remain in control. JUUL Labs is fully independent with full operating control.
The JUUL system represents an unprecedented opportunity to help adult smokers switch off combustible cigarettes.
But the fact that it has taken off with teenagers is as appalling to us as it is to you, and completely antithetical to our mission.
We know that strong action is required to curb these troubling trends. We have taken the most dramatic and aggressive steps of any other manufacturer in the industry to prevent underage use.
In November, we implemented our youth prevention action plan, overhauling how we run our business with renewed focus on limiting youth access, appeal, and use of JUUL products.
We also have been working with lawmakers across the country to pass Tobacco 21 laws for all tobacco products, including vapor products like JUUL, and commend the state of California for enacting Tobacco 21 statewide in 2016. Studies have shown that in the months after California raised the purchasing age to 21, tobacco sales to minors dropped by 45 percent.
It’s clear our success depends on our ability to get our product in the hands of current adult smokers and out of the hands of youth. When adult smokers try it, it works. And the impact is life-changing.
Ashley Gould is chief administrative officer at JUUL Labs of San Francisco, [email protected]. She wrote this commentary for CALmatters.