E-cigarette manufacturer Juul Labs Inc. — a company worth $38 billion — is telling some of its core consumers to stop using its products.
Juul CEO Kevin Burns said, “Don’t vape. Don’t use Juul,” Thursday in a “CBS This Morning” interview.
“Don’t start using nicotine if you don’t have a pre-existing relationship with nicotine,” Burns said. “Don’t use the product. You’re not our target consumer.”
Critics, however, argue the rapidly expanding company actually went to great lengths to “convey its messaging directly to teenage children” — spending more than $200,000 on marketing and sponsorships targeted to young people as well as recruiting online influencers, according to a July Congressional report.
When the thousands of documents were released, the embattled CEO apologized to parents of teenagers who became hooked on vaping. During Thursday’s interview, Burns again acknowledged that the long-term health effects of vaping are not known, but argued that his products are screened and considered safe.
“We think we have a product that is legal today, is tested for toxicity, and does not present, you know, a risk based on the guidelines of the category today to the American public,” Burns said.
A Juul spokesperson told The Post, “We share these concerns about youth vaping,” which is why the company is partnering with their retailers to launch “retail access control standards (RACS)” to curb e-cigarette use among teens and adolescents. Stores that don’t comply with “advanced” point-of-sale systems by March 2021 will no longer be able to carry Juul.
However, these moves aren’t stopping attorneys general in Illinois and the District of Columbia from launching state probes to investigate “the dramatic increase in the use of vaping products by district youth,” said Marrisa Geller, a spokeswoman for District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, in a statement to the Associated Press.
The Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights group isn’t buying Juul’s advocacy efforts, either.
“Isn’t it curious how much money Juul is spending on ballot initiatives designed to weaken strong local tobacco control legislation and pre-empt future public health laws designed to save lives and prevent youth nicotine addiction?” the not-for-profit posted to its official Facebook page.
In response to the public outcry, a Juul rep told The Post: “We strongly advocate for Tobacco 21 legislation nationwide. We stopped the sale of non-tobacco and non-menthol based flavored JuulPods to our traditional retail-store partners, enhanced our online age-verification process, strengthened our retailer-compliance program with over 2,000 secret-shopper visits per month, and shut down our Facebook and Instagram accounts while working constantly to remove inappropriate social-media content generated by others on those platforms. And we continue to develop technologies to further restrict underage access.”
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