The tobacco industry will sell you the disease and now will sell you the cure.
This came out a couple of weeks ago and apparently this week it became official. Juul, those cutesey little e-cigs that plug into laptop computer and look just like a flash drive, came to completely dominate the e-cig industry incredibly quickly, eating up 75 percent of the market in less than two years.
Altria just invested $13.5 BILLION into Juul, taking ownership of 35 percent of the company.
Juuls sort of advertised themselves as an indie company against the tide of Big Tobacco. No more. Juul IS BIG TOBACCO now, baby. Altria, formerly known as Philip Morris, makers of Marlboro cigarettes.
Here’s the shit that actually pisses me off. From an AP story:
Juul will remain an independent company, but it gains access to Altria’s massive infrastructure and reach. Namely, Altria will help Juul secure space on store shelves beside traditional cigarettes. It will also help Juul reach smokers via cigarette pack inserts and mailings.
Yeah, fuck you, Juul. You’ve been one of the biggest guilty parties, if not THE biggest guilty party, in marketing e-cigs to kids. Now that you’ve got these teenagers hooked on nicotine, you get Altria’s [quote] “massive infrastructure and reach.”
“I am officially declaring e-cigarette use among youth an epidemic in the United States,” Adams said at a news conference. “Now is the time to take action. We need to protect our young people from all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.”
“We have never seen use of any substance by America’s young people rise this rapidly,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said at the briefing. “This is an unprecedented challenge.”
Officials at this press conference largely blamed Juul for the epidemic, though to be fair, the increase in teen vaping was already happening before Juuls hit the market about two years ago.
Less than 2 percent of teens were vaping in 2011. In 2018, that figure has increased to 21 percent.
At the same time, there’s been a big decrease in teens smoking, which is great.
Teens getting addicted to nicotine, not so great.
I debated with a few vaping advocates on this story. They keep harping on two really false and lame narratives.
One: Who cares if teens are vaping … would you rather they be doing crack or meth?
Well, no, of course, that’s just stupid. I’d rather they not do ANY addicting substances. It’s not an either/or situation. It’s not either they vape or they do meth. I’d rather they do NEITHER.
And the second lame point: “Well, e-cigs don’t have the toxins of cigarettes, and they’re much safer than cigarettes.”
Yes, probably. And I emphasize “probably,” big time. Because the jury is still out about that. No one is totally sure everything that is in e-cig vapour. Yes, e-cigs don’t contain the Polunium-210 and carbon monoxide and benzene that cigarette smoke does, but it still contains formaldehyde and most of all … nicotine, which is incredibly addictive. And studies have shown that a higher percentage of teens who vape eventually take up smoking to get their nicotine fixed filled, than teens who never vaped to begin with.
Anyway, I’m going to get into these weak-ass arguments in a little more in-depth in a later post about libertarian fake journalist and tobacco industry apologist stooge John Stossel (again … this isn’t my first go-around with Stossel, who seems to really have a thing about tobacco issues.).
Anyway, to try and combat the increase in teen vaping, the FDA has proposed putting limits on where e-cigarettes can be sold, ruling that they must be sold in an area closed off to minors. The FDA pulled up just short of flat out banning e-cigarette sales in minimarts and convenience stores, which was being proposed.
Strong language, for sure from the surgeon general. It’s going to be really interesting what will happen with the e-cigarette industry in the next two or three years.
Here’s a good article from the Verge about what Adams’ proclamation actually means. It means e-cigarettes are squarely in regulators’ sites:
The Surgeon General’s power is more about influence, and less about enforcement: the real regulatory power over vaping comes from the Food and Drug Administration. So this advisory doesn’t have any legal force, Micah Berman, a professor of health services management and policy at The Ohio State University, tells The Verge in an email. “They are a tool used by the Surgeon General to call attention to an issue and to provide guidance to the public,” Berman says. “They are only issued rarely, when immediate action is called for — which is what makes them so noteworthy.”
That’s why it’s particularly significant that the Surgeon General is using the word “epidemic,” says Kathleen Hoke, a professor specializing in public health law at the University of Maryland: “Using the e-word, epidemic, takes it to a higher level. From a public health perspective, we try not to use that word unless it’s warranted — otherwise you have the boy cried wolf,” she says. But she says, according to these health officials, youth vaping has reached that level: “It’s broad, vast in its impacts, and of deep concern about its lasting effects.”
The headline to this article is slightly misleading. They aren’t talking about just a ban on flavoured tobacco in California, they’re talking about a ban on flavoured tobacco and flavoured e-cigarette products. I still think it’s important to differentiate between the two.
This is all part of a recent crackdown on e-cigarettes and their fruity, sugary flavours. The e-cigarette industry isn’t really fooling anyone when they claim they aren’t marketing to kids when they make flavours like “Smurf grape” and bubble gum.
Juul has apparently agreed to stop sales of some of its sweet flavours. Candy-flavoured cigarettes were banned some time ago, but Swisher sweet cigars, a long-established product and menthol cigarettes were still allowed.
Now, the FDA is moving to ban all flavoured tobacco products and menthol cigarettes. That move could be tied up in courts for a while, because menthol cigarettes are BIG business (roughly about 10 percent of cigarette sales) and the tobacco industry simply isn’t going to go down without a fight.
The City of San Francisco banned the sale of flavoured e-cig products and several state legislators in California are proposing a similar statewide ban.
Here’s my attitude about the sweet flavours. If e-cigs are really designed to help get smokers off cigarettes, then the draw should be the nicotine, not the flavour of the steam. By having strawberry and lemon-lime and what have you flavours, this to me is pretty clearly just part of the e-cig’s craven tactic of making their products appealing to kids — who are not using e-cigs to get off cigarettes, they’re using e-cigs to get addicted to nicotine to begin with.
Anyway, I hope the bill passes and in California, it probably has a good chance to pass. The day of reckoning for the e-cig industry has arrived, I think.
I wrote a few days ago about how Altria is expanding its business to marijuana. Altria, which already owns the e-cigarette brand MarkTen, is now making a move to buy into the biggest e-cigarette brand out there, Juul.
It’s interesting. A lot of people think e-cigarettes and cigarettes are somehow in competition. Nothing could be further from the truth. They’re really two sides of the same coin, doing a cutesy little dance around each other.
At one time, Big Tobacco controlled about 80 percent of the e-cigarette market. Altria had MarkTen, RJ Reynolds controlled Blu for a while, then Blu was sold to and controlled by Imperial Brands, a subsidiary of Philip Morris. Meanwhile, RJ Reynolds kept control of Vuse. Those three brands constituted about 80 percent of the e-cigarette market.
So, no, e-cigarettes were not competing with Big Tobacco. E-cigarettes WERE Big Tobacco. All those people usuing e-cigarettes to get off cigarettes. All those people using e-cig to say “F U” to the tobacco industry. Hey, you were giving your money to the same CEOs. Big Tobacco was selling you both the disease and the cure.
Then, along came Juul to overturn the apple cart. Juul is a relatively new player in the e-cigarette market and sometime around 2017, this company started dominating the e-cig industry, pushing down Big Tobacco’s share in the market. Juul’s share got up to 75 percent. They did this in about two years.
Now, Altria is following the Big Tobacco playbook. When you can’t beat them in the marketplace, simply buy them out.
Juuls are incredibly convenient. They look exactly like a computer flash drive. They can charge up by plugging them into a laptop. And the flavour viles are little and easy to use.
Juuls are controversial with a lot of people in the tobacco control industry because the company, much like Blu, was pretty fucking brazen about marketing to teens. Juul relied heavily on social media to market itself and they got themselve in the crosshairs big time not only of the tobacco control community, but of the FDA. After the FDA started suggesting that it was cracking down on e-cigs because of the explosion of e-cig use by teenagers, Juul very quickly abandoned all of its social media accounts and announced that it would no longer sell many of its fruity and surgary flavours.
Along comes Altria to save the day. Altria, the parent company behind what used to be known as Philip Morris, is abandoning its failed MarkTen product.
According to this CNBC article, Altria is looking at buying a “significant” share of Juul. And again, we follow the same pattern as Blu and MarkTen and Vuse.
Now, this news came out around the same time as the FDA announced that it was cracking down on e-cigs, mostly by requiring that e-cigs be sold in areas closed off to minors, and Juul shut down its social media accounts. We all know Altria has a long, long history of playing cutesy with the “Marketing to teens? Moi? Never!” game that Juul and every other e-cig brand has copied from.
I see this as Altria evolving and trying to stay an active player in the nicotine addiction game, via e-cigs and international marekts. (And my concern about Altria getting involved in marijuana is over the company cooking up schemes to add nicotine to marijuana to make it more addictive). This is a multi-billion dollar corporation that has no plans of simply slinking off into the sunset.
I knew this would happen. In fact, to be honest, I’m surprised it took this long.
As marijuana becomes legal in more and more of the U.S., I knew sooner or later Big Tobacco would look to get into the game.
Sure enough, a bunch of huge stories came out this week that Altria … the parent company of Philip Morris, makers of Marlboros, is investing $1.8 billion in Cronos, a Canadian marijuana company. And as we all know, marijuana was legalized across ALL of Canada a couple of months ago.
About 80 million people in the U.S. live in states where marijuana is now legal. Add that to the 36 million of so people in Canada … that’s a lot of legal marijuana users. And that number is just going to continue to grow as more and more states figure out that keeping pot illegal is not just stupid but also a waste of a BIG potential tax source.
So, tobacco sales in the U.S. have been in decline for decades. Big Tobacco is being forced to diversify … by pouring more energy in developing tobacco markets in the Third World, by investing in e-cigarettes (though the future of e-cigs is now in doubt with new FDA regulations being proposed) and now pot. It was totally predictable.
My biggest concern about Big Tobacco getting their beak wet in the pot industry is my fear that they’ll pull the same underhanded, amoral crap with pot that they’ve pulled with marijuana for decades. For instance, I could totally see Big Tobacco artificially adding nicotine into marijuana to make it physically addictive like cigarettes. (And then acting all “Moi? Not us!” before Congressional committees about it). Think of it. The pure, amoral genius of it. The most addictive substance in the world added … to marijuana. They would do it, too. They totally would.
One of the biggest worries about legalizing pot was allowing big corporations to take over the pot industry. I remember an article from a year or two ago worrying that the beer industry would get involved in pot. Honestly, that doesn’t scare me nearly as much as Altria or any tobacco company getting their paws on it.