The Vaping Conversation Is Not Over: Why Our Lives Depend On Us Taking A Stand Against Big Tobacco
... classic Big Tobacco tactic — prioritizing their own wallets instead of the health of the American people.
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The youth vaping epidemic that has led to over 30 reported deaths and countless illnesses, very clearly got its start due to the actions and decisions of one company — Juul, the leading e-cigarette manufacturer.
Juul has been marketing flavored vaping products to teenagers across America, and until now, they have been getting away with it. Luckily, President Trump’s decision last month to ban all flavored e-cigarette products is all-encompassing and includes menthol and mint vaping products — which had previously been excluded from other proposed government bans.
If the president’s ban goes through as it currently stands, it will be a great victory for the American people. Flavored e-cigarettes have no place on the market and have been proven to have devastating effects on teenage smokers. However, there is a strong, scary possibility that the ban will be altered before it goes into action.
In an attempt to show their compliance, Juul announced that they would remove flavors from their online and retail options. This announcement, however, has one very important component. Though Juul claims to be removing all flavors, it should be noted that they are going to continue selling mint and menthol e-cigarettes, the two most popular choices for teenagers. That’s a classic Big Tobacco tactic — prioritizing their own wallets instead of the health of the American people.
After the notorious tobacco behemoth Altria and Juul finalized an almost $13 billion deal, Altria received a 35% stake in the company. The deal led to Juul’s value skyrocketing to $38 billion, which in turn notably raised their lobbying efforts, which they used to sway the FDA’s announcements.
Altria and Juul have successfully manipulated the conversation before, so what’s to stop them from trying again? As the saying goes: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice …
Let’s not get fooled again, America.
Young adults and children of this country need to be protected from the money-hungry tactics of Juul, who is the number one supplier of e-cigarettes to teenagers. With mint and menthol e-cigarettes being the most popular among teenagers, new smokers and minority populations, they absolutely need to be included in the final flavor ban.
Juul is clearly not to be trusted to follow the industry rules, yet they have been able to get away with their constant manipulation. The company is very strategically keeping its market lead by marketing flavored products in a way that makes them seem innocuous, and they will continue to do it this time around as well. Through successful marketing and lobbying, Juul has been able to sell their mint flavored pod by referring to them as “menthol-based,” making it appear as a non-flavor, instead of the candy-like flavor that it is. Essentially, they are trying to make “menthol-based” a trojan horse catch-all term that gives off the impression that they are following the rules.
If Juul truly believed that vaping is an issue among teenagers, then they would show that with their actions across the globe, and not just haphazardly release statements advocating the president’s decision. Though Juul likes to act like a well-meaning player in the conversation, we know the American people are smarter than that.
Considering both President Trump’s plan and Juul’s recent announcement, it is our responsibility to make sure that Big Tobacco does not get their way again. If we shift our focus away from this conversation, mint and menthol may remain on the market and continue poisoning the country. The children and teenagers of this country and in the world deserve better. It’s time we stood up and continued the conversation, before companies like Juul and Altria contort it to fit their own profit-seeking agendas.
Linda Goler Blount, MPH serves as President and CEO, Black Women’s Health Imperative. BWHI, since 1983, has been the only national organization dedicated solely to improving the health and wellness of our nation’s 21 million Black women and girls – physically, emotionally and financially. Linda has served as vice president of programmatic impact, United Way of Greater Atlanta, she has served as the first‐ever national vice president of health disparities at the American Cancer Society, to include the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as an expert scientist.