Juul Labs CEO Kevin Burns has a message for parents of young people who are addicted to his company’s vaping products: “I’m sorry.”
Burns issued the unusual apology during a tour of a Juul plant with CNBC, which is airing a documentary on vaping on Monday night. Asked how he would defend his company’s products to a parent of a child hooked on vaping, Burns said, “First of all, I’d tell them I’m sorry their child is using the product.”
He added, “It’s not intended for them. I hope there was nothing we did that made it appealing to them.”
Critics contend Juul has targeted minors through advertising that touted sweet and fruity flavors and by using young-looking models. 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. That’s causing alarm among parents, schools and health experts.
But others aren’t so sure. Former Food and Drug Administration commissioner and physician Scott Gottlieb told the network that many consumers don’t fully switch from cigarettes.
“They engage in dual use, and we are not sure that provides a health benefit,” he noted.
San Francisco — where Juul is headquartered — is taking a stand against vaping. In June, it became the first city in the nation to impose a total ban on e-cigarettes, including the manufacturing and sale of vaping products.
Juul, which is partly owned by tobacco company Altria, was spun off as a separate company from vaporizer maker Pax Labs in 2017. Juul had revenue of about $2 billion last year and has an estimated 72% of the fast-growing vaping market.