The chairman of a second U.S. House committee is attempting to put pressure on Reynolds American Inc. to curtail, if not halt, advertising of its Vuse electronic-cigarette products.
Top-selling Juul and No. 2 Vuse began running commercials on national cable channels’ late-night programs earlier this year.
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., and chairman of the House Oversight and Reform committee’s panel on consumer products, requested Sept. 25 that the leading e-cigarette manufacturers voluntarily stop advertising their products.
The manufacturers are not required to respond to any congressional request since Congress doesn’t have the authority to halt advertising.
Krishnamoorthi also requested the manufacturers provide documents that include a list of all advertising, a list of all celebrities or social media influencers the companies have worked with, all discounts and promotions they have run, and all documents relating to the effect of their marketing strategy on minors. Krishnamoorthi requested the documents by Oct. 24.
Juul Labs Inc., which is 35% owned by tobacco giant Altria Group Inc., announced Sept. 25 it would end all product marketing. Cable business news channel CNBC reported Friday that NJoy responded to Krishnamoorthi’s first letter by saying it will stop advertising.
Meanwhile, Reynolds’ response as of Tuesday did not satisfy Krishnamoorthi, prompting a second letter to Reynolds chief executive Ricardo Oberlander on Thursday.
Krishnamoorthi wrote that the company “gave no indication that it would make any changes in its advertising practices, instead stating that it would make my letter ‘part of your considerations going forward.’ ”
“Two of your competitors have already confirmed that they will not be advertising their products going forward, and we expect more confirmations to come soon. Your company, however, has given no indication that it plans to halt its advertisements.”
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that its latest update on vaping-related illness has exceeded 1,300 nationwide with at least 26 related deaths.
Most who got sick said they vaped open-pod products containing THC, the marijuana ingredient that causes a high, but some said they vaped only nicotine. Most of the THC vaping liquids are not currently regulated by the FDA.
Open-pod systems allow vapers to refill the nicotine or non-nicotine liquid manually, while closed-pod systems, such as used by Juul and Vuse, use ready-filled tanks and attach directly onto the e-cigarette battery.
Krishnamoorthi said that “with increasing federal attention on the epidemic of youth use of e-cigarettes, one would expect to see e-cigarette companies taking steps on their own to avoid making the problem worse.”
“For generations of Americans who have never seen cigarette ads on television or heard them on the radio, the ubiquitous vaping advertisements are disturbing and dangerous,” he said.
Reynolds said in a statement Friday that “as expressed to Chairman Krishnamoorthi, we do not want our Vuse products in the hands of minors and we regularly re-evaluate Vuse advertising to ensure it continues to be directed at adult tobacco consumers.”
“We remain committed to working with members of Congress and regulators to address this issue.”
Gregory Conley, president of American Vaping Association, said that Vuse’s TV advertising, which focus on the science of the products, “are about the most boring and unobjectionable vaping commercials ever produced.”
“Moreover, Reynolds knows enough from the tobacco wars to ensure that advertisements are only played during programs with audiences that are heavily adult-focused.”
On Aug. 22, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce committee requested similar information about the public-health aspects of e-cigarettes, joining a long line of congressional and state legislative initiatives aimed at addressing the issue that include the Federal Trade Commission.
Committee chairman Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., sent oversight letters to Juul, Reynolds, Fontem and Japan Tobacco.
The FTC said Oct. 3 it has requested marketing and sales information for the years 2015-18 and will focus on sales, advertising and promotional practices. The review will be similar in nature to previous FTC studies on traditional cigarettes, moist snuff and other smokeless tobacco products.
The whirlwind surrounding the safety of e-cigarettes, particularly the open-pod versions, led three national media groups in September to stop running commercials of the closed-pod products.
The media groups are: CBS; Viacom, whose outlets include AMC, BET and TV Land; and WarnerMedia, which owns CNN, Headline News, TBS and TNT.
WarnerMedia said it “reserves the right to withdraw advertising from its platforms at its discretion.”
“Given warnings from the CDC, the AMA and the American Lung Association to consumers, our company has revised its policies regarding e-cigarette advertising, and will no longer accept advertising for this category,” WarnerMedia said
“We will continue to monitor the investigations by relevant medical agencies and may re-evaluate our position as new facts come to light.”