Vaping-deaths crisis envelops Juul
The future just got a lot hazier for Juul, said Jennifer Maloney in The Wall Street Journal. The controversial e-cigarette maker blamed by federal health officials and anti-tobacco groups “for a sharp rise in teenage vaping” announced this week that its CEO, Kevin Burns, is stepping down. The company is also suspending all broadcast, print, and digital advertising in the U.S. and ceasing its lobbying effort against a proposed federal ban on flavored e-cigarettes. The moves come a day after prosecutors in California launched a criminal probe into the role that Juul’s marketing has played in a recent rash of respiratory illnesses resulting in at least eight deaths.
Altria’s $12.8 billion wager on Juul last winter was supposed to future-proof its business, said Sarah Halzack in Bloomberg.com. When Altria bought its stake, Juul was successfully pitching itself as a healthier alternative to smoking. Now the bet on Juul seems more like “a cautionary tale for any stalwart in a mature industry that is looking for a savior in the form of an upstart.” It’s probably not a coincidence that Altria’s plan to merge with Philip Morris International—the overseas business it spun off in 2008—got called off this week, too. Who wants to join forces with Altria right as “U.S. regulators appear ready for a crackdown?” ■