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Juul comes under fire for allegedly hijacking teen anti-smoking curriculum

By newadmin / Published on Tuesday, 30 Jul 2019 18:07 PM / Comments Off on Juul comes under fire for allegedly hijacking teen anti-smoking curriculum / 13 views

One of the most popular e-cigarette companies, Juul, stole material from Stanford University’s renowned tobacco prevention toolkit, and used it to get its marketing messages to kids, one of the toolkit’s authors claims.

“They took a number of slides and talking points, and they never asked permission,” said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, a professor and expert in teen vaping at Stanford University who helped design the kit.

Halpern-Felsher told NBC News that Juul altered the toolkit, deleting portions that addressed e-cigarette flavors, how e-cigarette companies market to kids, as well as how nicotine influences the brain.

The accusations came as two executives from Juul, co-founder and chief product officer James Monsees, and chief administrative officer Ashley Gould, testified in front of the U.S. House Oversight and Reform’s Economic and Consumer Policy Subcommittee in a hearing on the e-cigarette company’s youth marketing practices.

“You took a Stanford researcher’s work and and changed it to fit your needs,” Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Calif., said to Monsees.

“You’re nothing but a marketer of poison and your target has been young people,” he said sharply.

DeSaulnier also asked Monsees whether it’s true Stanford had sent Juul a letter demanding the company stop using its toolkit. Monsees testified he was “unaware of anything along those lines.”

In a statement to NBC News, a Juul spokesman clarified that “Stanford’s toolkit was posted on its website for public use to fill the gap in public health education. We corresponded with Stanford and removed requested materials from our curriculum guide. Similarities remained because in Stanford’s curriculum, publicly-available sources were cited, and we included many of those same themes in our guide.”

Emails Stanford University shared with NBC News suggest Juul offered to pay schools up to $20,000 to teach the curriculum as part of an anti-tobacco education seminar.

A representative from Juul Labs, Inc. told the subcommittee the company once had a program to educate students about tobacco addiction and prevention.

“When we started seeing media reports of youth using Juul products in 2017, we engaged with education experts, including several retired superintendents and principals, and they advised us and helped us to create a curriculum and advised reaching out to schools,” Ashley Gould, chief administrative officer at Juul, said at the hearing.

Gould said Juul discontinued the program in the fall of 2018 after it was determined the program was “not well received.”

On Wednesday, two New York City teenagers told the subcommittee that in 2017, a Juul representative went to their school under the guise of encouraging students to stay away from tobacco, in the form of a seminar focused on mental health and addiction. The boys said they were in 9th grade at the time.

“Once you get a young person to look at something and ask questions from an adult who seems to be an authority figure, you’ve got them interested,” Halpern-Felsher said.

“Teachers are told to leave the room so it’s a safe space for kids to talk,” said Caleb Mintz, 17. Mintz told the subcommittee that the representative repeatedly told the students Juul was “totally safe.”

“For my classmates who were already vaping, it was a sigh of relief because now they were able to vape without any concern,” Mintz said.