Juul Labs, the largest U.S. e-cigarette maker, does not have African-America’s best interests in mind despite gifting $7.5 million to a historically Black medical school last month that prompted a backlash.
The company, which controls over 70 percent of the U.S. vape products market, has been blamed for teen vaping addiction that has reached “crisis levels”.
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Its donation to Meharry Medical College in Tennessee to start a center to study public health issues that affect African-Americans has been criticized by African-American health experts and activists for targeting a race that is already suffering from the highest rate of tobacco-related illnesses.
Historically, the American tobacco industry has targeted Black communities with menthol cigarettes that have led to increased youth addiction to nicotine.
“Juul doesn’t have African-Americans’ best interests in mind,” LaTroya Hester, a spokeswoman for the National African American Tobacco Prevention Network, told The New York Times. “The truth is that Juul is a tobacco product, not much unlike its demon predecessors.”
By currying favor with Black Americans, Juul hopes to win allies in the Democratic Party who can help it navigate a high-stakes legislative and regulatory minefield, Daily Beast reported.
Juul sales skyrocketed in the past year, rising 800 percent, as the company’s value reached $15 billion on the back of increased teen use of their vape products.
A Connecticut man became the first person to sue Juul for causing him to suffer a massive stroke after he became addicted to the company’s products as a teenager.