WASHINGTON D.C. (Nexstar) — The Surgeon General has declared youth e-cigarette use an epidemic.
Lawmakers blame the teenage vaping surge on the e-cigarette company, Juul Labs.
On Thursday, Juul company executives and health experts testified before Congress. Lawmakers say they are trying to understand what makes this specific type of e-cigarette so attractive to teenagers.
U.S. Rep. Raja Krisnamoorthi (D-Illinois) says underage vaping is an epidemic.
“3.6 million high school and middle school students use e-cigarettes in 2018,” U.S. Rep. Krisnamoorthi said.
That’s nearly double the number of teenagers vaping in 2017.
“As a parent of three young children myself, including a teenager, these statistics are alarming,” U.S. Rep. Krisnamoorthi said.
Krisnamoorthi says he blames the e-cigarette industry’s leading brand, Juul.
James Monsees, Juul Labs Founder, says he never intended for the product to be such a hit with teenagers.
“I agree with you we should be concerned,” Monsees said. “We were clear in our goal. To help improve the lives of adult smokers.”
Monsees says Juul devices are made for adult smokers who are trying to quit smoking, but lawmakers say the company is actually targeting children.
“No one wants kids to use tobacco and no one wants kids vaping,” U.S. Rep. James Comer (R-Kentucky) says Juul made vaping a cultural phenomenon by using social media influencers that teens follow to build their brand.
Monsees says that’s not true.
“So preventing underage usage is a priority for JUUL?” U.S. Rep. Comer asked Juul’s founder.
“There is no higher priority for this company,” Monsees replied.
Monsees says the company actually pulled its flavored products off the store shelves, hoping to deter under-aged kids from buying it.
“Flavors hook kids. Though you you took all the flavors out of the stores, you left the mint flavor,” U.S. Rep. Krishnamoorthi said.
Krishnamoorthi says the company still needs to do more.