Juul Chief Executive Steps Down Amid Backlash

Juul is under fire

By Olive Lundegaard

September 25, 2019 – Juul Chief Executive Kevin Burns has stepped down on Wednesday, effective immediately, amid intensifying criticism of Juul’s marketing practices, and a public health crisis of ten confirmed deaths and 530 confirmed cases of vaping-related lung disease related to vaping products. K.C. Crosthwaite, a former executive at Altria, which owns a 35 percent stake in Juul, will take over as the new Juul Chief Executive. Juul said in a statement that Crosthwaite will continue “a broad review of the company’s practices and policies to ensure alignment with its aim of responsible leadership within the industry.” 

Juul Chief Executive
Close up of inhaling from an electronic cigarette.

Burns said in a press release, “Working at JUUL Labs has been an honor and I still believe the company’s mission of eliminating combustible cigarettes is vitally important.”

Burns’ resignation comes after the Trump administration moved to ban flavored e-cigarettes from the market, Michigan and New York proposed bans on the sale on flavored e-cigarette products, and Boston’s Mayor, among others, declaring vaping a public health emergency. The White House has blamed flavored e-cigarettes for the “surging” use of the products among teens and young adults. A recent study found nearly a quarter of high-school students vape.

JUUL TO PULL ADVERTIZING

Juul also announced it will withdraw all advertising in the U.S. Juul will suspend all broadcast, print and digital product advertising and refrain from lobbying the Trump administration on its draft guidance. Juul said in a statement it will fully comply with the Trump administration’s policy when it becomes effective. The company has already stopped its youth-centered social media marketing after the FDA issued a warning letter, and nixed kid-friendly flavors such as mango and fruit.

GROWING HEALTH CRISIS

Health officials are seeing “more and more cases” every day, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said at an emergency hearing on Tuesday. The majority of patients are between the ages of 18 and 34, and nearly three-quarters are men, according to the CDC.

According to the Wall Street Journal, federal prosecutors in California are conducting a criminal probe into Juul for deceptive marketing practices that targeted minors. Additionally, Boston’s mayor announced a public health emergency and government officials across the country are considering bans of flavored e-cigarette products.

FUTURE OF E-CIGARETTES

Merger talks have collapsed between tobacco companies Philip Morris International and Altria announced on Wednesday to instead focus on a joint launch of tobacco-heating product iQOS in the United States. When the talks were announced for a merger, the potential for the Juul and iQOS to dominate the biggest global vaping markets was the center of the deal. 

The iQOS heats—but does not burn—tobacco is seen to become a rival technology to vaping devices like the Juul, which vaporize liquid containing nicotine.

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