Most of Juul’s state lobbyists work for well-connected firms run by ex-governors, former state lawmakers and big political donors, public records show. Some are in-house, based in the growing number of offices the company is opening around the country. The company’s latest star hire is Martha Coakley, the former attorney general of Massachusetts. (The state’s current attorney general, Maura Healey, is investigating whether Juul intentionally targeted its vaping products to minors.)
In a series of interviews, Lindsay Andrews, a spokeswoman for Juul, said the lobbyists were primarily focused on raising the minimum age for buying e-cigarette and traditional tobacco products to 21 from 18, or in a few states, 19. More than 400 local governments and 14 states have already done so, eight of the states this year.
But in numerous states, the proposals that Juul publicly supports, known as Tobacco 21, or T21, contain measures that public health experts consider poison pills.
Juul says it prefers that T21 legislation does not have added provisions. But it worked to help pass a T21 law in the Arkansas Legislature, for example, that would also block local governments from enacting new rules regarding the manufacture, sale, storage or distribution of tobacco and vaping products — including restrictions on flavored products.
For related reasons, public health advocates have opposed Juul-backed T21 bills in Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia. The tobacco industry supported the T21 bills.
In some states Juul’s advocacy is public, and in others the company is barely visible, working only through the Vapor Technology Association, or by relying on Altria, the tobacco company that late last year paid Juul $12.8 billion for a 35 percent stake.