News & Opinion | September 25, 2019 10:55 am

Juul CEO Steps Down, Company to Stop Advertising

The changes come in the wake of growing public concern about vaping-related illness.

Juul's trying to clean up its image, but it's not going well
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Juul CEO Kevin Burns has reportedly stepped down amid growing public concern over vaping. He will be replaced by K.C. Crosthwaite, an executive from Altria, the tobacco company that has 35 percent ownership in Juul Labs.

“I have long believed in a future where adult smokers overwhelmingly choose alternative products like JUUL,” Crosthwaite said in a statement. “That has been this company’s mission since it was founded, and it has taken great strides in that direction. Unfortunately, today that future is at risk due to unacceptable levels of youth usage and eroding public confidence in our industry.”

The company also announced it would cease all advertising — including print, broadcast and digital ads — in the U.S. The move comes after Juul caught heat for its “Make the Switch” campaign, which the FDA said illegally marketed their product as being a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes. “Regardless of where products like e-cigarettes fall on the continuum of tobacco product risk, the law is clear that, before marketing tobacco products for reduced risk, companies must demonstrate with scientific evidence that their specific product does in fact pose less risk or is less harmful,” acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Ned Sharpless said in a statement. “Juul has ignored the law, and very concerningly, has made some of these statements in school to our nation’s youth.”

Juul also announced that it would not fight the Trump administration’s plans for a ban on most flavored e-cigarettes. Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal reported that federal prosecutors are conducting a criminal probe into the company, though a spokesman for the US attorney’s office said he “could neither confirm nor deny” the existence of such an investigation.

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