Juul Labs Co-Founder James Monsees defended the vape giant at a congressional hearing on Thursday by maintaining that he did not take a page out of Big Tobacco’s playbook with its ads, which many blame for the ensuing e-cigarette epidemic among the youth.
At one point, the hearing highlighted a crucial conversation between Monsees and a top researcher Stanford.
Congress questioned Monsees for the first time on Capitol Hill by members of the House Economic and Consumer Policy Subcommittee. Democrats plied Monsees with questions about how it framed its early ads — including how it worked with influencers — drawing on various documents procured from the company.
‘You’re under oath and you’re denying that you made that statement?’
In an interview with Yahoo Finance in May, Stanford University researcher Dr. Robert Jackler said that when he had met Monsees in 2018, he broached the similarities in terms of the color schemes between Juul’s ‘Vaporized’ campaign and American Spirit. Specifically, Jackler said he told Monsees that “it looks like you ripped that off.”
At that point, according to Dr. Jackler, Monsees didn’t respond but “looked down and smiled, which I thought was very telling.”
During the first of the two sessions held this week, Jackler testified that Monsees “thanked us for the database that we have of 50,000 traditional tobacco ads… he said they were very helpful as they designed Juul’s advertising.”
On Wednesday’s session, Dr. Jackler stressed: “We know very well — having studied tobacco advertising — that Juul’s marketing faithfully recapitulates the methods used by the tobacco industry to target young people.”
On Thursday, Monsees denied that this specific exchange took place.
“Yesterday … Dr. Jackler, a professor from Stanford University, testified under oath before this subcommittee that you confirmed to him that you reviewed Stanford’s online library of cigarette advertising and found it … ‘very helpful’ … you did in fact meet with Dr. Jackler, didn’t you?” Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), who also chairs the economic subcommittee of the House on Oversight and Reform asked Monsees.
“I did, but I did not make that statement to Dr. Jackler,” Monsees testified.
“Ok sir, you’re under oath and you’re denying that you made that statement to Dr. Jackler, is that correct?” responded Rep. Krishnamoorthi.
“I think that unfortunately Dr. Jackler may have misheard my commentary. In fact, the resource that he compiled is a useful resource. Back when Adam and I were at Stanford, we were very interested in understanding more about the historical bad actions of tobacco companies. … to familiarize ourselves with how not to run the business.”