Here’s the real reason that Juul’s CEO is warning people against using his e-cigs


Juul CEO Ken Burns says non-smokers shouldn't try vaping.

  • In an interview with CBS, Juul CEO Kevin Burns warned against using his products and acknowledged that vaping has unknown health risks.
  • Juul has walked a fine line between portraying its products as a trendy gadget and a healthcare tool.
  • After launching as a sleek Silicon Valley gadget with parties and free giveaways, Juul rose to prominence as America’s most popular e-cigarette.
  • Now, Juul is being forced to shift its marketing as the sleek devices face scrutiny over their role in sparking a teen vaping epidemic.
  • Nicotine, Juul’s main ingredient, is a highly addictive drug.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

In an interview with CBS on Thursday, the CEO of the $38 billion e-cigarette company Juul warned against using his products. 

Specifically, Juul CEO Kevin Burns said anyone who isn’t already using nicotine, the addictive drug in Juul, should not start.

“Don’t vape. Don’t use Juul,” Juul CEO Kevin Burns told Tony Dokoupil in an interview that aired on “CBS This Morning.”

“Don’t start using nicotine if you don’t have a preexisting relationship with nicotine,” he said. “Don’t use the product.”

Burns’ remarks are the clearest sign yet of how Juul is being forced to shift its marketing as the sleek devices face increasing scrutiny over their role in sparking a teen vaping epidemic and potentially being tied to seizures.

Products like Juul cannot be explicitly marketed as tools for quitting smoking, according to federal law. But that doesn’t mean companies who make them can’t suggestively advertise them as such.

And on Thursday, shortly after warning people not to Juul, CEO Burns said the company was helping American smokers quit.

Juul declined to comment for this story beyond Burns’ recent remarks. The company pointed to a recent opinion piece in which Burns says that the “1 billion adult smokers worldwide who should have the opportunity to switch to vapor products if they so desire.”

Juul is part-owned by tobacco giant Altria

juul vaping woman

Juul has walked a fine line between portraying its products as a trendy gadget and a healthcare tool.

The company launched its devices in 2015 with a series of promotional events that included parties, free giveaways of its devices, and posters that featured young-looking models. At the time, the e-cigarettes were sold in flavors that included dessert with labels that included the word “cool.” 

Juul has now risen to prominence as the most popular e-cigarette in America. It is also now partially owned by Altria, the tobacco giant behind Marlboro.

In recent months, Juul has been edging into the healthcare space: first by pitching its e-cigarette as an anti-smoking tool to employers and insurers, then by outlining plans for a mobile app geared at turning smokers into Juulers.

Read more: E-cig company Juul is diving further into health with an app geared toward turning smokers into Juulers

But while Juul aims to show customers that it can improve their health, regulators are increasingly pointing to the potential health risks of its products.

Two federal agencies are now investigating whether Juul engaged in deceptive marketing. The FDA is also looking into reports of seizures linked with the Juul, Bloomberg reported. And US health agencies are investigating a spate of lung illnesses tied to vaping.

Read more: Here are all the health risks of vaping

Addictive gadget or anti-smoking tool?

Federal regulations prohibit companies like Juul from stating outright that their devices can help people quit smoking, in part because it’s still unclear whether or not they can.

Meanwhile, vaping appears to have helped hook young people on nicotine. Experts have suggested that Juul has played an outsize role in this phenomenon. Teens who vape are also more likely to go on to smoke, according to two large studies.

“The dramatic spike of youth [vaping] — that was driven in part at the very least if not largely by Juul,” former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb told Vox.

Burns previously apologized to parents of kids addicted to Juul’s products.

In March, Juul put out a study suggesting that some adult smokers may be using Juuls to wean themselves off regular cigarettes. The study, published four years after Juul’s products had been on the market, was paid for by Juul.

During Thursday’s interview, Burns, Juul’s CEO, said Juul was “absolutely contributing to the decline of the smoking rate.” Smoking rates in the US have been steadily declining since the 1960s, reaching the lowest level ever recorded in 2017, according to the CDC.

SEE ALSO: E-cig company Juul is creating app geared toward turning smokers into Juulers

DON’T MISS: Officials are investigating a spate of lung illnesses tied to vaping. Here are the other health risks you should know about.

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