WASHINGTON — Five leading e-cigarette companies will be dragged before Congress early next month, according to a Wednesday afternoon announcement from Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.).
It’ll be the first chance for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to question or scold many of these companies for their alleged role in fueling the growing youth vaping epidemic. Five companies, Juul, Logic, NJOY, Fontem, which makes the product “blu,” and Reynolds American, which makes “VUSE,” will testify on Feb. 5.
It’s the latest in a spate of bad news for the beleaguered industry, which has been staring down the possibility of the government banning flavored e-cigarettes altogether. Many of these companies are also the subject of multiple congressional investigations into marketing and business practices that targeted young people, according to lawmakers.
“While consumers remain in the dark of the possible health consequences, these companies are making billions of dollars as they lure a new generation of young people into a lifetime of nicotine addiction,” DeGette, the chair of the oversight panel conducting the hearing, wrote in a press release.
It’s a time-honored tradition for unpopular industries to be called before Congress for high-profile tongue lashings. In years prior, drug makers, drug wholesalers, bankers, and airlines have felt Congress’ wrath. Most famously, seven tobacco executives irreparably damaged their industry’s reputation when they testified before the Energy and Commerce Committee in 1994.
Juul will share the stage with its competitors, but it is likely to take more heat on the dais than the other four participants.
Despite spending more than $4 million lobbying Congress in 2019, Juul has been criticized by everyone from former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb to presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) for its role in fueling the youth vaping epidemic.
The company has already been hauled before Congress this year. Juul’s co-founder and chief product officer, James Monsees, and chief administrative officer, Ashley Gould, faced a grilling before the House Oversight Committee back in July.
The hearing is also the latest sign of Congress’ desire to seriously shake up the booming vaping market. Congress held roughly half a dozen hearings on the topic last year and recently raised the minimum age for vaping to 21.