Juul names new CEO, suspends all advertising in U.S. — but no change in Canada

Juul’s CEO has abruptly stepped down, and the company will suspend all broadcast, print and digital product advertising in the United States as a crackdown on the vaping industry it dominates intensifies.

The departure of Juul co-founder and CEO Kevin Burns is effective immediately, and the company will halt all digital, print and broadcast advertising in the U.S. as of now, the San Francisco-based company said in a news release Wednesday. But the company is making no such changes in Canada, or anywhere else.

The firm has named veteran tobacco industry executive K.C. Crosthwaite to take over from Burns.

“Juul Labs is a global company and this announcement impacts the U.S. only,” a spokesperson for the company told CBC News on Wednesday.

The company advertises in Canada through various means, and has employed lobbyists to meet with politicians to try to influence policy numerous times in the past year, according to the federal registry of officially recognized lobbyists.

The company did not immediately reply to a request for comment from CBC News as to why it saw fit to change the way it does business in the U.S., but not in Canada.


Crosthwaite has spent much of his career at Altria, the tobacco giant that owns brands like Marlboro and Virginia Slims, and also owns about one third of Juul after a $ 13 billion deal last year.

The company has been under fire in recent months after a spate of lung-related illnesses among people who vape. Juul products account for about three-quarters of all sales in the fast-growing industry.

Originally designed to be a product to help smokers wean themselves off tobacco, vaping and the industry have been criticized for seemingly getting an entirely new generation of people to start consuming tobacco — especially young people.

The company recently opened its first branded store in Toronto. (Michael Wilson/CBC)

The company became a hit largely because its pods had a higher nicotine content than other comparable products, and Juul offers fruit and dessert flavours. It also uses viral marketing campaigns that seemingly target young people, despite age limitations to use their product in most jurisdictions.

According to U.S. government estimates, roughly one in four American teenagers has used some sort of e-cigarette in the previous month. The Food and Drug Administration has warned Juul to stop using deceptive advertising claims in its marketing, a message that seems to have resonated with the company, as it also announced on Wednesday it will suspend all broadcast, print and digital product advertising in the U.S., and will stop lobbying the government to implement legislative policies that benefit it.

The outgoing CEO, Burns, made headlines in recent weeks in a stunning TV interview in which he bluntly admitted that non-smokers should not be using his company’s product.

Wednesday’s moves seem designed to show the company is making an abrupt change in its corporate direction.

In a news release, Crosthwaite said: “I have long believed in a future where adult smokers overwhelmingly choose alternative products like Juul,” he said. “Unfortunately, today that future is at risk due to unacceptable levels of youth usage and eroding public confidence in our industry.

“Against that backdrop, we must strive to work with regulators, policymakers and other stakeholders, and earn the trust of the societies in which we operate.”

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