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Juul CEO resigns as company revises marketing efforts

K.C. Crosthwaite is taking over as the new CEO of Juul Labs in the wake of Kevin Burns’ announcement Sept. 25 that he is stepping down. The company is also making sweeping changes to its marketing efforts in the United States.

In a statement, Burns’ fellow co-founders, James Monsees and Adam Bowen, said: “Kevin transformed our start-up into a global business, and we are incredibly grateful for his commitment to and passion for our mission. K.C. has long understood the potential of alternatives to combustible cigarettes and the need to combat youth usage and we look forward to having him lead our team during this crucial phase.”

Incoming CEO K.C. Crosthwaite brings more than two decades of global operational, management, stakeholder and regulatory engagement experience. As chief growth officer at Richmond, Va.-based Altria Group Inc., he oversaw the company’s expansion into alternatives to combustible cigarettes and played a key role in the commercial and regulatory efforts related to the U.S. launch of IQOS.  He also served as an observer on Juul Labs’ board of directors.  As reported by Convenience Store News, Altria holds a $12.8-billion minority stake in San Francisco-based Juul.

In addition, effective immediately, Juul Labs announced the company is:

  • Suspending all broadcast, print and digital product advertising in the U.S.
  • Refraining from lobbying the U.S. Administration on its draft guidance and committing to fully support and comply with the final policy when effective

Commenting on the announcement, Crosthwaite said: “I have long believed in a future where adult smokers overwhelmingly choose alternative products like Juul. That has been this company’s mission since it was founded, and it has taken great strides in that direction. Unfortunately, today that future is at risk due to unacceptable levels of youth usage and eroding public confidence in our industry. Against that backdrop, we must strive to work with regulators, policymakers and other stakeholders, and earn the trust of the societies in which we operate. That includes inviting an open dialogue, listening to others and being responsive to their concerns.”

Over the course of Burns’ tenure, JUUL Labs grew from a firm with fewer than 300 hundred employees operating in the U.S. to a company with thousands of employees and operations in 20 countries around the world. The company says Burn implemented industry-leading manufacturing and quality control standards, while also overseeing what it calls “the implementation of industry-leading actions to combat underage use of vapor products.”

“Working at Juul Labs has been an honor and I still believe the company’s mission of eliminating combustible cigarettes is vitally important,” said 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. I am grateful to be able to confidently hand the reins to someone with K.C.’s skill set, which is well-suited to the next phase of the company’s journey.”

In addition, Juul Labs says it will stop supporting a ballot measure to overturn an anti-vaping law in San Francisco, effectively killing the campaign.

The San Francisco-based vape products company announced Sept. 30 that it will stop funding Proposition C after donating nearly US$19 million.

San Francisco passed a measure in June suspending the sale of e-cigarettes. Proposition C would permit sales to adults.

Although the measure remains on November’s ballot, the Yes on Proposition C campaign says it won’t be continuing its support efforts.

Juul says its decision was part of a companywide review from newly appointed CEO K.C. Crosthwaite. It came as the company is under investigation into concerns about its advertising.

The announcement also came as a 14th U.S. death related to vaping was reported in Nebraska.