During that time, the F.D.A. also sought to limit nicotine in cigarettes to encourage smokers to switch to vaping. But his original plan grew untenable as evidence of Juul’s popularity with teenagers mounted.
In an interview, he recalled the morning in August 2018 when Mitch Zeller, the director of the agency’s tobacco control unit, brought him the bad news: Vaping was up 78 percent among high school students and 48 percent among middle school students, with 3.6 million youths reporting they had used e-cigarettes, according to the 2018 National Tobacco Youth Survey.
A few weeks later, Dr. Gottlieb called youth vaping an epidemic, and gave e-cigarette makers 60 days to show how they would curb youth vaping, or risk having their products pulled from the shelves. Juul pulled mango, crème and other flavors off the shelves but continued to sell them on line.
The conservative leaders now fighting restrictions on flavored e-cigarettes include Grover Norquist’s anti-tax group, Americans for Tax Reform, the R Street Institute and the American Legislative Exchange Council Action, a nonprofit. In a letter dated Feb. 4, a coalition of these and 13 other groups urged President Trump to “halt the Food and Drug Administration’s aggressive regulatory assault on businesses who sell and consumers who rely on less harmful alternatives to cigarettes in the United States.”
Both Juul and Altria say they had nothing to do with this message to the president. But in recent years, both companies have donated to Mr. Norquist’s group and to some of the other groups that signed the letter.
In 2017, Altria made contributions to the Goldwater Institute, the Rio Grande Foundation, the R Street Institute, and the Independent Women’s Forum, as well as Mr. Norquist’s group, according to an Altria annual philanthropy report that did not specify the amounts.
And Juul confirmed its contributions to Mr. Norquist’s group, the R Street Institute, where Tevi Troy, Juul’s vice president of public policy, and a friend of Dr. Gottlieb’s, was once a board member, and to ALEC Action. Juul declined to disclose the size of its donations.