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Juul CEO steps down amid public outrage over vaping

Juul CEO steps down amid public outrage over vaping
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The CEO of Juul Labs stepped down Wednesday as the company faces a growing public outcry over the health risks of vaping, particularly among teens.

Kevin Burns will be replaced by K.C. Crosthwaite, an executive from Altria, a major tobacco company that has 35 percent ownership in Juul Labs.

The company also said it was halting all print, broadcast and digital advertisements in the U.S., effective immediately. Juul also said it will refrain from lobbying the Trump administration on its draft guidance to ban most flavored vaping products.

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"I have long believed in a future where adult smokers overwhelmingly choose alternative products like JUUL. 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," Crosthwaite said.

Crosthwaite oversaw Altria’s expansion into alternatives to combustible cigarettes, and oversaw the "commercial and regulatory efforts" related to the launch of IQOS, Altria's “heat-not-burn” alternative to cigarettes.

Juul is one of the largest e-cigarette companies in the country and has faced intense scrutiny in recent months as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asserts the company “ignored the law” and illegally marketed its nicotine pods as less harmful than cigarettes.

FDA investigators this month said they found that the company broke the law with its vaping products “by selling or distributing them as modified risk tobacco products without an FDA order in effect that permits such sale or distribution.”

Companies need FDA approval to claim their products are less harmful than traditional cigarettes, and Juul did not have that. 

Federal prosecutors in California have launched a criminal investigation into the e-cigarette company.

A string of deaths related to vaping has been reported across the country, with the death toll reaching nine following reports of a death in Kansas this week, the second in that state.

The lung disease tied to vaping has reportedly sickened more than 530 people in total across the nation, but officials say they still don't know exactly what is causing it.

People who have reported being sick from vaping say the illnesses have come from using products containing only nicotine, only THC, only CBD and a combination of THC and nicotine.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of the people who have become sick are younger than 25, and 16 percent are younger than 18. 

The Trump administration and several states have moved to ban flavored e-cigarettes that are disproportionately used by young people. Preliminary federal data showed that teen vaping rates spiked again this year, with 25 percent of all high school students reporting they vaped in the past 30 days.