In April 1994, the heads of
the biggest tobacco companies testified before Congress that cigarettes were not addictive. A month later, across
the country, a box marked”confidential” came for Dr. Stanton Glantz, a
longtime foe of Big Tobacco and also a professor of medicine at the University of
California San Francisco. The sender signed his name”Mr. Butts,” an
allusion to some Doonesbury character. When Glantz opened the
bundle, he discovered tens of thousands of internal documents from British American Tobacco
and its then-subsidiary, Brown & Williamson. The paperwork detailed
scientific research, public relations plans, and corporate communications
about everything from downplaying the harms of smokes to appealing to the
next generation of smokers. In a fury, Glantz began photocopying the pages and
copied them onto CDs. It would only be the beginning.
In 1998, the four largest
tobacco companies in the U.S.–Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, Brown &
Williamson, and Lorillard–entered the Tobacco Master Settlement
Agreement together with 46 attorneys general,
requiring the business to shell out hundreds of billions of dollars in
perpetuity so countries could grapple with climbing medical costs associated
with smoking-related illnesses. The deal also imposed
strict advertising limitations on the tobacco companies and generated and funded what became the Truth Initiative, a tobacco-control nonprofit that
would go on to spearhead numerous youth avoidance campaigns. But more
notably for Glantz, it compelled the business to release even more of its own interior communications. He got hold of those, too.
With all this evidence in
hand, Glantz and UCSF uploaded what became called the “Truth Tobacco Industry Documents” on the net in the early 2000s. The university created a digital
archive of 14 million records meant to provide transparency to what was probably the most deceptive and deceptive industry in the United States.
Two new books published on
the exact same day this month–Big Vape: The Incendiary Rise of Juul, by Time‘s
Jamie Ducharme, and The Devil’s Playbook: Big Tobacco, Juul, and the
Addiction of a New Generation, by Bloomberg’s Lauren Etter–each relay this narrative and what has happened to the smoking industry in the decade or so as, which
now almost completely revolves around the question of whether the rise in vaping is
a salutary corrective or not.
Years following the UCSF upload,
James Monsees and Adam Bowen, two students of Stanford’s graduate program in
design, stumbled on the trove. They had a thesis project to finish: pitching a
system that could deliver nicotine in a safer way than smoking. They pored over
the information, researching how the tobacco companies had attempted to
sell lower-risk options to combustible cigarettes. They’d blueprints–like
apparatus from R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris that heated tobacco instead of
burning itright in front of them.
After graduation, Monsees and
Bowen will flip their thesis project to a reality. In its earliest
conception, Ploom, as the device was initially called, would heat modest pods of
tobacco via a liquid gas supply, butane, generating a nicotine aerosol that
could be inhaled. With some initial investment from Silicon Valley, the group needed to add legitimacy to their startup endeavor by Dealing with a person who had a standing in public health. They approached Glantz, who, admittedly
inquisitive, stated that he issued them a dire warning: The new apparatus would be
appealing to kids. They never received his support.
This is an incident Ducharme
and Etter linger on, the second the infamous history of Big Tobacco slammed
into the current of well-financed along with breakneck technology. Without the tobacco
industry records Glantz publicized, there’s good reason to speculate Monsees and Bowen would not have managed to change Ploom into what we now
know as Juul–one of many e-cigarettes available on the market that innumerable health
authorities have stated
are less harmful than conventional cigarettes.
If Monsees and Bowen were reckless,
Juul isn’t a Theranos-level con, no matter how far the publishers of those books wish it had been. The story of Juul particularly and vaping more broadly is
quite a bit more complex than what has dominated the news cycle.
It’s very likely the Monsees and
Bowen introduced the best harm-reduction tool ever by
achieving what Big Tobacco never could; it’s even true they put off a series of
events, whether through negligence or avarice or some mix, that directed adolescents to their merchandise and put them in the crosshairs of a long fight between
the government and the tobacco industry.
As Juul helped propel vaping
to the mainstream, the company collected billions of dollars and, in the
process, arrived in the middle of a debate that had previously been booked to
the very small group of tobacco control. Broadly, it’s known as the “tobacco endgame.” The assumption is simple: Do we try to accomplish a nicotine-free
society, in all its forms, or do we move toward a much safer and more sustainable cigarette potential? That is the question that hovers over Ducharme’s and Etter’s
books, even if it is not always addressed head-on.
In general, there are currently two
different approaches to the issue. The first is a prohibition-focused strategy
that entails the banning of vaping goods, particularly flavored ones, because
they’re enticing children to use nicotine. It is another battleground against Big
Tobacco. The second recommends embracing e-cigarettes as substitutes for
cigarettes, a means to switch current adult smokers to less dangerous choices.
This viewpoint, ironically and unfortunately, is shared by the very industry
that caused so much death and devastation in the first location.
The former group consists of prominent
public health organizations such as the American Heart Association, the Michael
Bloomberg–financed Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, wealthy parents together with political
clout, and a vast majority of American lawmakers; the latter is comprised of a motley crew
of very online libertarians, enthusiastic consumer advocates, tax reformists such as Grover Norquist, medication war critics, an increasing number of tobacco-control
outliers, the tobacco and vaping industries, also Joe Nocera.
For a moment, before youth
vaping rates destroyed his sanity in the Food and Drug Administration,
Commissioner Scott Gottlieb even saw tobacco
goods on a”continuum of risk” and accepted that the possibility of e-cigarettes in
reducing the harms from smokes if people changed. They had been promising to him that his agency, which had been granted authority over tobacco products in
2009, waited years to formally begin
the process of controlling the tens of thousands of vaping devices in the marketplace. Just in September 2020 failed vaping businesses have to submit applications for authorization, following over a decade of market trade shows and unencumbered creation. This official stamp is Juul’s sole
Both Ducharme’s and Etter’s
narratives are reasonable and well researched, despite being restricted evaluations.
Ducharme zooms in squarely on the inner workings of Juul, whilst Etter appears at
just how Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris and among the greatest cigarette
producers on the planet, chose to spend $12.8 billion for a 35 percent stake in Juul. Ducharme graphs how one
poor decision by Juul after another coalesced in a regulatory and legal nightmare that left no choice but to get involved with Big Tobacco; Etter
cuts back and forth between the ascent of both Monsees and Bowen along with the competitive desire of Howard Willard, then Altria’s CEO, to enter the lucrative vaping
marketplace at all costs. Along the way, Etter also follows an assortment of well-off
parents in the Bay Area who worry their children have succumbed to the throes
Juul’s fast-paced legend is
inextricably attached to the activities Monsees and Bowen took that contradicted what
they would later claim: that Juul was designed for current, of-age smokers in
search of a better choice. The optics definitely are not terrific. When Juul plastered a billboard in Times Square, who exactly was it targeting? When it threw a launch party in Manhattan attended by social media influencers,
was that really meant as a celebration for mature smokers? And, perhaps worst of
all, it built anti-vaping programs to be taught in schools. Was that a strategy borrowed from Big Tobacco of decades ago, or was Juul really–frankly –merely that naïve?
(It had been advised by Cheryl Healton, the dean of New York University’s School of
Global Public Health, not to do this.)
The very layout and assumption of the Juul has its detractors. The easy-to-charge mobile device can be
mistaken for a flash drive also delivers an atomized nicotine salt, for which
Juul holds a patent. The hit from a Juul mirrors the instant buzz of smoking
a cigarette. A single pod can contain up to 59 milligrams of nicotine per
milliliter, among the higher amounts of cigarette in pod-based vapes on the U.S. marketplace. The apparent drawback of such a concentration is that a person who does not use
nicotine on a regular basis–saya teenager–may become dependent on it. But
research also have suggested which vaping products with high levels of nicotine seem more
conducive to helping current smokers stop, since the immediate effects
resemble those from a normal cigarette.
Some of this data remains in Juul’s
favor. Youth vaping rates steadily diminished in 2020. A recent research has
suggested that teens who vaped would
have probably smoked cigarettes had vapes not been accessible. Track any
old-school adult vaper who prefers tinkering with their clunky open-system
springs, plus they’ll tell you
it is a specific taste that got them off the smokes for good. All these testimonies
completed some weight: Toward the conclusion of 2019, the Trump government settled
on a partial ban on pod-based flavored vapes, which makes the open systems
preferred by several grownup vapers untouched. (Under huge pressure, Juul stopped
all tastes –other than tobacco and menthol–before the Trump government issued its sales