By Bryan Pietsch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has ordered a half-dozen e-cigarette companies to turn over sales and advertising data, the federal regulator said on Thursday, in the first sign of a likely probe of their marketing practices.
The announcement comes the same day the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the number of confirmed and probable cases of lung illnesses associated with vaping had reached 1,080 in the United States. The CDC also said on Thursday that 18 people have died due to the lung illnesses.
The FTC order was sent to JUUL Labs Inc, RJ Reynolds Vapor Company, Fontem US Inc, Logic Technology Development LLC <LOGQ.PK>, Nu Mark LLC and NJOY LLC, the FTC said in a statement.
The FTC is seeking annual sales data and information on giveaways, data on product placement and flavors, as well as information on the companies’ use of celebrities as internet influencers and marketing on college campuses to sell the electronic smoking devices. The first order was sent about a month ago, an FTC official said.
Altria Group Inc <MO.N>, which owns Nu Mark and has a 35% stake in Juul, will comply with the FTC request for information on Nu Mark, a company spokesman said. A Juul spokesman said the company will fully cooperate with the FTC.
A Fontem Ventures spokeswoman said the company has been working with the FTC and will meet the request’s deadline. Reynolds American said it is reviewing the request, while Japan Tobacco said it is looking forward to continuing its dialogue with the FTC.
The FTC order comes a week after a U.S. House of Representatives panel asked Fontem Ventures, Reynolds American, NJOY and Japan Tobacco <2914.T>, which owns Logic, to stop all advertising of their products in the United States. Juul had said the same day that it would pull its ads.
The CDC has urged people to stop using e-cigarettes or vaping products, including those containing THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
The Trump administration has announced plans to remove all flavored e-cigarette products from the market in the United States amid concerns that flavors like mint and mango attract children to the products.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey, Diane Bartz and Bryan Pietsch; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Bill Berkrot and Dan Grebler)