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Juul Hires Leading Teen Addiction Researcher As Medical Director

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Juul Labs, the nation’s main producer of e-cigarettes, has employed as its medical director a distinguished University of California researcher recognized for his work on the risks nicotine poses for the adolescent mind.

The firm stated the rent will assist its efforts to stem a teen vaping craze the Food and Drug Administration has labeled an epidemic. But critics see a cynical tactic taken straight from the Big Tobacco playbook.

Dr. Mark Rubinstein, a pediatrician and previously a number one researcher with UC San Francisco’s Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, took up the put up of govt medical officer at Juul final week, a transfer first reported by Politico. Rubinstein has carried out signature analysis on teen habit and the way nicotine, which is current in excessive ranges in e-cigarettes, impacts adolescents. He has spoken brazenly of the potential dangers of vaping for kids.

In an announcement, Juul stated Rubinstein would oversee analysis on underage use of vapor merchandise, information the corporate’s youth prevention packages and coverage positions, and assist type hyperlinks with the general public well being neighborhood. The firm declined to make Rubinstein accessible for an interview. It says the transfer is a part of its effort to cut back teen vaping whereas it continues to supply an alternative choice to smoking for adults.

Colleagues of Rubinstein, nonetheless, stated they have been disturbed by the transfer and skeptical of Juul’s motivations. At the center of their considerations is whether or not Juul is keen to lose the enormous base of teenybopper customers who’ve helped gasoline the corporate’s meteoric rise and hefty market share.

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Stanford University professor Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, who researches teen vaping and writes curriculum on teen prevention, helped prepare Rubinstein at UCSF. She stated she was each incensed and disenchanted when she heard about his transfer.

“Even if you believe in harm reduction,” she stated, “to go work for a tobacco company … to me goes against everything that anybody doing control should believe in.” She stated she is especially involved specialist on the consequences of nicotine in adolescents has gone to work for the business. Last 12 months, Altria, one of many world’s largest cigarette makers, purchased 35% of Juul for $12.Eight billion.

Stanton Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, concurred, saying he was “shocked and depressed” by Rubinstein’s determination to go away UCSF for Juul. He sees Juul’s early social media campaigns as proof the corporate has deliberately marketed to teenagers. Research supports this claim, although the corporate denies it and has shut down its Facebook and Instagram presence.

Not everybody shares their skepticism. Dr. Neal Benowitz, a UCSF professor who has studied habit and smoking cessation for many years, often printed with Rubinstein. He stated he’s hopeful that e-cigarettes may also help folks give up smoking and desires them to stay in the marketplace whereas extra analysis is completed. He was shocked by the job change however stated that if anybody may also help work out methods to cut back youth vaping, it’s Rubinstein.

Rubinstein’s rent comes as Juul works to assemble proof to undergo the FDA that its units supply extra public profit than danger. If it fails to persuade the company, Juul may very well be prohibited from promoting most of its merchandise.

Under the Trump administration, the FDA, which has oversight of all tobacco merchandise, initially gave e-cigarette producers till 2022 to file functions for approval for his or her units, however a federal choose just lately superior the deadline to 2020. Juul has been wooing distinguished researchers within the lead-up to the deadline, but with limited success amid considerations in regards to the firm’s targets.

“Part of Juul’s strategy is to create credibility and buy influence by hiring everybody who would take their money. We shouldn’t be fooled: Juul created the youth e-cigarette epidemic and refuses to take responsibility for it,” stated Vince Willmore, spokesman for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Some consider will probably be a tall order for the businesses to indicate that e-cigarettes are a internet profit, given what is thought in regards to the dangers of teenybopper vaping and the way few research there have been on their long-term efficacy to assist folks give up smoking. Others see the FDA’s comparatively lenient method to the business as far as an indication it might take a extra favorable view of the merchandise.

The FDA final 12 months labeled teen vaping an “epidemic,” noting federal survey information confirmed almost 1 in 5 highschool college students had tried vaping in 2018. While not as dangerous as older tobacco merchandise, e-cigarettes include excessive doses of nicotine and a variety of carcinogenic chemicals, in accordance with Rubinstein’s analysis. When it involves vaping, Juul is by far the largest vendor within the U.S., capturing an estimated 70% of the e-cigarette market.

Anti-tobacco activists contend Juul more and more is drawing on the ways of tobacco firms to push again towards regulation of its merchandise. They level to a latest Juul marketing campaign to overturn restrictions on e-cigarettes and flavored tobacco in San Francisco, the place the corporate relies.

Last month, a Juul-backed poll proposal gathered sufficient signatures to make town’s November poll. The invoice’s supporters declare it could strengthen laws round adolescent entry to tobacco merchandise, whereas making certain the units can be found to those that wish to give up smoking. Opponents, including the city’s former attorney, say the measure would take away native management and peel back existing bans on flavored tobacco merchandise and the sale of e-cigarettes till they’re accepted by the FDA.

“To us, Juul is Big Tobacco 2.0,” stated John Schachter of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, asserting the corporate is utilizing misleading laws to take care of the sale of its merchandise.

Benowitz of UCSF disagreed with the comparability, saying he sees a giant distinction between Juul, whose merchandise present authentic potential to assist folks hooked on cigarettes, and the tobacco firms that predate it.

One query on the core of the considerations over Rubinstein’s transfer is whether or not analysis and prevention ought to come from inside the business. An inside analysis program is problematic, stated David Michaels, a professor at George Washington University who has studied company assaults on the science underpinning environmental safety. “I understand why scientists are concerned about a program like this, and I think they should be,” he stated.

E-cigarette producers, not taxpayers, ought to fund analysis of their merchandise, Michaels stated, however the analysis have to be fully unbiased of the corporate. Tobacco firms have lengthy used scientists to fabricate uncertainty and defend merchandise which have harmed public well being, he stated, and the analysis they produce in-house will at all times be referred to as into query.

Use Our Content This story will be republished without spending a dime (details).

This KHN story first printed on California Healthline, a service of the California Health Care Foundation.

Anna Maria Barry-Jester: annab@kff.org”>annab@kff.org, @annabarryjester

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