KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 26 – Kevin Burns has resigned as CEO of e-cigarette firm Juul, following a lung disease outbreak related to vaping in the United States that has killed nine.
KC Crosthwaite, former chief growth officer at tobacco giant Altria, will take over the position from Burns.
“Since joining Juul Labs, I have worked non-stop, helping turn a small firm into a worldwide business, so a few weeks ago I decided that now was the right time for me to step down,” Burns was quoted as saying by BBC.
Atria, which owns 35 per cent of Juul, said its merger talks with fellow cigarette-maker Phillip Morris has been abandoned.
Juul, which has been accused of targeting children as their client base, also announced that it is withdrawing all US advertising.
A US congressional investigation into Juul is currently underway.
CNN reported that Juul allegedly spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in youth-focused programming. These included programmes “to enter schools and convey its messaging directly to teenage children” and summer camps for them.
The e-cigarette maker has also been found to pay thousands of dollars to schools which would “use the Juul sponsored curriculum” during classes. This allowed “Juul consultants” to observe classes.
In a now-public email, a Juul employee expressed an opinion that the company’s youth prevention efforts were “eerily similar” to those from “Big Tobacco.” These were efforts previously used by tobacco companies to fight back against regulation and “fight taxes, clean-indoor-air laws, and marketing restrictions worldwide.”