In case you missed the big spread in The New York Times earlier this week, a vaping war is headed to the Palmetto State.
Maybe more than one …
Juul – a San Francisco, California-based e-cigarette company that dominates the national vaping marketplace – is involved in a protracted, multi-state battle over the use of its “non-combustible nicotine devices” by minors. Beyond that, it could soon find itself at the forefront of a possible crony capitalist incentives battle.
According to South Carolina senator Katrina Shealy, Juul is looking at a “manufacturing plant” in Lexington County that could bring as many as 825 jobs to the region.
In all likelihood, such a facility would rely on taxpayer-funded incentives provided by state and local governments.
Several sources in the area have confirmed these rumors to us, while an unnamed county official spoke about the project earlier this week with reporter Isabella Cueto of The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper.
Cueto also tracked down a pair of Juul-related online job listings – including one that referenced “high volume manufacturing processes.”
In other words, it would appear as though Juul’s efforts in South Carolina are ramping up … as evidenced by the fact that the company currently employs six lobbyists in the Palmetto State, according to documents filed with the S.C. State Ethics Commission (SCSEC).
Juul claims its mission is to “eliminate cigarettes” – although just four months ago Richmond, Virginia-based cigarette giant Altria purchased a 35 percent stake in the company for a whopping $12.8 billion.
So we are not exactly sure how that works …
“It’s hard to say where Altria ends and Juul begins,” one anti-teen smoking advocate told the Times.
The Times story also alleged Juul’s lobbyists were “aggressively pushing measures that undermine (its) pledge” to keep vaping products out of the hands of teenagers.
“Juul is attempting to rehabilitate its public image by posing as a public health advocate while working behind the scenes to weaken or defeat tobacco control proposals and prevent communities from even considering policies to curb tobacco use,” the leader of the American Heart Association (AHA) told the paper.
First things first: This news outlet’s strident opposition to crony capitalist incentive deals is well known – and has recently received capable reinforcement thanks to the efforts of Democratic state senator Dick Harpootlian.
In the aftermath of Harpootlian’s eye-opening objections to an incentives deal for billionaire Carolina Panthers’ owner David Tepper, proposals involving taxpayer-funded incentives are likely to draw much greater scrutiny in the months to come – which is a good thing.
As for the issue of vaping, we are likely to be much more supportive of Juul on that front – even though the jury is still out as to whether vaping is as healthy as its proponents claim. And whether the company is really serious about restricting the use of its products among minors.
Stay tuned … this battle is clearly just getting started (on multiple fronts).
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