JUUL’s CEO is sorry for teen vaping epidemic - Activate World

JUUL’s CEO is sorry for teen vaping epidemic

Since launching in 2015, JUUL has dominated the e-cigarette industry with 40% of the market.  It did so well that Altria, the leading U.S. cigarette company, invested $12.8 billion for a 35% stake in the San Francisco-based start-up. But there is a problem: the company’s vapes are extremely popular with teenagers for which the company’s CEO says he’s sorry. 

Lunchtime Conversations:

  • Why is the FDA not moving faster with vaping regulations given that 3.6 million high school and middle school students are using e-cigarettes?
  • The FDA review process calls for the agency to weigh the net public health benefit. To do this, the agency must weigh how many adults will benefit versus how many teens might be harmed when deciding if products can stay on the market. Given the risks, how would you go about making this decision? 
  • JUUL shut down its social media promotions and stopped selling flavored pods in retail stores. If the company is serious about ending the teen vaping epidemic, what other actions should it take? 


  • “Saying you’re sorry is too little too late for the nearly 5 million children in this country using e-cigarettes,” said Dennis Herrera, the city attorney for San Francisco who introduced the local “e-cig ban.” JUUL and its allies are challenging at the ballot.
  • Kenneth Warner, a professor emeritus of public health at the University of Michigan and former president of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco, thinks the narrative of kids getting hooked on JUUL has eclipsed the reality of vaping helping longtime cigarette smokers ditch their fatal habit.
  • More than 1 in 5 high school students admitted to using an electronic cigarette within the last 30 days, a jump of more than 77 percent since 2017, according to a recent government survey. 


According to excerpts from a CNBC documentary on Monday night, JUUL CEO Kevin Burns apologized to parents for what the Food and Drug Administration has called an “epidemic” of teen vape use. “First of all, I’d tell them that I’m sorry that their child’s using the product,” Burns said. “It’s not intended for them. I hope there was nothing that we did that made it appealing to them. As a parent of a 16-year-old, I’m sorry for them, and I have empathy for them, in terms of the challenges they’re going through.”

Last week, a federal judge ordered the FDA to review the company’s application for approval within ten months. The FDA has been allowing the company to sell vaping products without formal approval but has investigated whether JUUL deliberately went after young users. 

In San Francisco, a JUUL-backed coalition was able to get a vaping initiative on the November ballot that would allow sales of e-cigarettes but place stronger age restrictions to keep kids and teens from vaping. San Francisco in June became the first U.S. city to ban the manufacturing and sale of e-cigarettes.

While there is some research suggesting vaping may eventually prove just as dangerous as smoking traditional cigarettes, some experts believe the benefit it could provide to current smokers looking to quit is too good to ignore.

Vaping has some recent studies linking it to helping cigarette smokers quit—and JUUL has rebranded itself, basically, as a crusader for public health. The reality is that vaping is too new a phenomenon for experts to have definitive long-term data.

Sources: CBS NewsCNBCCNNThe VergeVice

Photo by Dani Ramos on Unsplash