E-cigarette maker Juul boosts lobbying amid scrutiny

E-cigarette maker Juul boosts lobbying amid scrutiny
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E-cigarette company Juul Labs has more than doubled its spending on lobbying as it faces regulatory threats from the Trump administration and Congress. 

Juul spent about $560,000 on lobbying in the third quarter of 2018, which runs from July through the end of September, according to newly released disclosure reports.

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Juul originally reported spending $1.2 million on lobbying in the third quarter, but later amended that amount that amount to $560,000, calling the incorrect data a filing error.

That compares to the $210,000 it spent in the previous quarter — a 166 percent increase.

Juul, which dominates the e-cigarette landscape in the U.S., didn't have much of a lobbying presence in D.C. until the last quarter, which runs from April through June. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and lawmakers from both parties are considering a regulatory crackdown on Juul and other companies in the e-cigarette industry as use among teenagers grows. 

As the crackdown looms, Juul has hired several high-profile former federal officials and regulators. 

According to the disclosure report released Tuesday, Juul spent the third quarter of 2018 lobbying both the House and Senate, as well as the Office of Management & Budget within the White House. 

Among its top lobbyists are Jim Esquea, who was assistant secretary for legislation for the Department of Health and Human Services during the Obama administration, and Ted McCann, who was assistant to Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Flynn awaits sentencing | White House signals it wants to avoid shutdown Missing: Fiscal sanity in Washington On The Money: Latest on border wall fight | Dems prep for long shutdown | Trump finds himself isolated | Stocks sink ahead of Fed meeting, funding deadline | Trump offers new round of farm aid MORE (R-Wis.) from November 2015 through August 2018. 

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who has called teen use of e-cigarettes an "epidemic," has been critical of Juul and other companies, arguing that marketing is aimed at youth by labeling e-liquids to resemble "kid-friendly" foods like juice boxes, candy and cookies. 

Flavors that taste like fruit and candy are the most popular with teenagers and also account for the majority of Juul’s sales.

The FDA says e-cigarettes may be an alternative for adults trying to transition away from traditional tobacco products, like cigarettes. 

At the same time, Gottlieb has hinted at future regulatory actions, writing last month that "the FDA won’t tolerate a whole generation of young people becoming addicted to nicotine as a tradeoff for enabling adults to have unfettered access to these same products."  

The FDA conducted a surprise inspection of Juul's corporate headquarters in September and collected more than a thousand pages of documents.

Potential regulatory actions include a possible ban on flavored e-liquids if five of the largest manufacturers can't come up with adequate plans to help keep e-cigarettes out of the hands of those under the age of 18.

—Updated Wednesday at 10:41 a.m.