By AFRO Staff

The rise in youth consumption of nicotine products in recent years was at issue before Congress July 24 and 25.

The simultaneous emergence of vape culture and a tobacco-free nicotine products industry, coupled with a Food & Drug Administration unable to keep up with innovations were the agenda items before House Oversight Committee Chaired by Representative Elijah Cummings (MD-D)

Carol McGruder and Dr. Valerie Yerger representing AATCLC at the 2 part-hearing

“We are as committed, as ever, to combating youth usage, but don’t take our word for it, look at our actions,” JUUL Labs said in a statement.

“We are looking at your actions, and they are deeply troubling,” Cummings told James Monsees, the billionaire co-founder and product officer of JUUL Labs. “Kids are especially attracted to flavored tobacco products,” Cummings continued.

Federal and local regulations have attempted to curb youth usage, primarily focusing on policing retailers for sales to minors and proscribing flavors and formulas particularly appealing or solely appealing to children. When the FDA announced that new products entering the market would be subject to additional scrutiny, products already at market were given amnesty through a grandfather date.

Questions remain unanswered by JUUL about what was the business’s mindset when a wide variety of JUUL products flooded the market just before the grandfather date elapsed.

“What’s very disturbing about this, and problematic, is that it seems that you were looking to circumvent FDA regulation,” Representative Ayanna Pressley (MA-D) told James Monsees, the billionaire co-founder and product officer of JUUL Labs. “And that’s what’s troublesome about this paper trail and what you’re corroborating here, today.”

Pressley’s questioning centered on whether or not JUUL juices and vaping paraphernalia were “rushed,” as Pressley put it, to market in order to avoid tightening regulations on a rapidly expanding nicotine delivery market.

“Because JUUL did not want to quote ‘imply that they are going away,’ the next line acknowledges that many may not be available by the end of this year,” Pressley continued, questioning whether JUUL Labs was pushing a wide variety of flavors and nicotine concentrations on retailers, knowing ahead of time some such products were doomed to fail.

Congressional Oversight is calling the rise in youth nicotine use an “epidemic,” and activists like The African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC) are applauding industry leaders coming under heightened scrutiny.

“JUUL has been making power plays all over the country to engage top Black leaders and lobbyists to clear JUUL’s path to Black nicotine addicted smokers,” AATCLC said in a press release finding Cummings “standing strong for public health policy that protects Black folks too.”