Whether it's in the bathroom, on the bus, or even in bed, the portable nicotine device known as the Juul has taken the teenage world by storm. However, statistics show that there have been nearly 30 vaping related deaths and 1,300 vaping related illnesses in recent months. In becoming the face of all vaping products, Juul has also become the face of this epidemic.
In the midst of these cases, on September 25th, Kevin Burns stepped down from his position as CEO of Juul Labs. Since Burns stepped down, Juul has temporarily suspended all forms of advertising. In a statement, Burns expressed that it was his honor to work at Juul and that he still believes in their mission of eliminating combustible cigarettes.
While it is wonderful that Burns decided to step down, they have replaced him with an even bigger player. His replacement is a big tobacco veteran known as K.C. Crosthwaite. Crosthwaite is a former executive at Altria, a “cigarette giant” that spent $12.8 billion on a 35% share in Juul last year. Essentially, big tobacco is ever present in the vaping epidemic, and it has been historically accused of targeting young people for decades, just as Juul is being accused of now.
This story goes far beyond just Juul Labs itself. Seemingly healthy people are dying and contracting life threatening diseases. Teenagers, who have never before smoked cigarettes, have taken up smoking as a way to ease their Juul cravings. Essentially, the original intention of the product has been completely reversed. Instead of helping people to be free from their cigarette addiction, Juul has encouraged an increased number of younger people to smoke cigarettes.
Instead of the addiction going from smoking cigarettes to vaping, the tides have shifted, and now addiction is going from vaping to smoking cigarettes. There is a parallel between this trend and the CEO change from a man of Juul to a man of big tobacco, but when it all comes down to it, once again, big tobacco wins.
While it may seem impossible to stop or limit the spread of this epidemic, some states have implemented more immediate solutions. On September 17, New York became the first state to issue a ban on mostly all nicotine vaping products. On top of that, states such as Massachusetts and Michigan have issued a temporary emergency ban on the selling of vaping products in all flavors except for tobacco. Washington passed a 120-day emergency ban. Rhode Island has banned certain flavors such as mango, and Walmart has stopped selling every known type of vaping product.
The F.D.A. announced that they have officially opened up a criminal inquiry into the “supply chain of vaping products and devices.” The vaping epidemic is extremely scary, but solace can be found in looking to local and state leaders for hope in regards to policy changes.