Uncuul? E-Cigarette CEO Steps down Amidst Public Outcry

Recently the United States has seen a new epidemic, and it isn’t the annual flu season. Multiple vaping-related deaths have been reported across the country, and the numbers only seem to be increasing. According to CNN, there have been nine deaths tied to e-cigarettes within the last several months and more than 530 cases of general lung injury. While major e-cigarette companies like Juul have claimed not to be advertising to young people and teenagers, they seem to be the primary consumers of the products. 

Although at one time presented as a ‘healthy’ alternative to smoking cigarettes, vaping products have since then come under public scrutiny. Juul is no doubt the preeminent e-cigarette company, controlling 70% of the market, according to the New York Times. At the height of their sales, the company provided many fruit-flavored e-cigarette cartridges to customers, such as melon and mango. They have since pulled these products from the market, after claims that the whimsical flavors were marketing to teens.

The national e-cigarette issue has come to a head over the last month after both the FDA and the public pushed back on the availability of vaping products. The Trump Administration announced a proposal for a full e-cigarette ban in early Sep. to counter what has been called an “epidemic of nicotine addiction.” Many states are also now moving to ban e-cigarettes to help reduce the number of reported lung injuries. Massachusetts has taken the strictest possible action by prohibiting the sale of all vaping products for four months. This ban came into effect in late Sep. and will be carried out until Jan. 25, 2020, according to Governor Charlie Baker.

Courtesy: Mike Segar 

Currently, it is unclear what exactly is causing these mysterious vaping-related lung injuries. Many of those who have been treated for the illnesses have reported vaping with illegal THC vape cartridges, as well as exclusively nicotine ones. Although it is possible Juul and other e-cigarette companies are not responsible for the health issues, it is too early to say conclusively. 

On Wednesday, Sep. 25, Juul made several significant announcements in response to the many public concerns. One of these announcements was that their CEO, Kevin Burns, would officially be stepping down. He’s to be replaced by former Altria CEO K.C. Crosthwaite, whose company heavily endorses Juul and owns a 35% stake in the e-cigarette giant. Juul’s other major announcement was that they would be ceasing all advertising until further notice, including all T.V., print and digital promotions. 

Many public health officials have become even more wary of Juul in the wake of Crosthwaite’s promotion, as he is an affiliate of the traditional tobacco industry. While many speculate that this switch will tank Juul’s sales, others fear that a tobacco-driven executive will only push the company’s success further. Aside from the company’s financial status, it is clear that America has a new public health problem to deal with, and it isn’t going away anytime soon. 

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