Juul CEO Kevin Burns is stepping down from the company amid widespread reports of vaping-related illness and eight confirmed deaths. The FDA has announced a criminal investigation into the company after more than 500 cases of illness have been reported, according to USA Today. Juul is also suspending all advertising and lobbying efforts in the U.S.
“Working at JUUL Labs has been an honor and I still believe the company’s mission of eliminating combustible cigarettes is vitally important,” Burns said. “I am very proud of my team’s efforts to lead the industry toward much needed category-wide action to tackle underage usage of these products, which are intended for adult smokers only.
“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.”
Burns will be replaced by K.C. Crosthwaite, a former tobacco executive. The former CEO previously told non-smokers not to start vaping or using Juul’s products. “Don’t start using nicotine if you don’t have a preexisting relationship with nicotine,” Burns said. “Don’t use the product. You’re not our target consumer.”
Still, it’s important to note that experts have pointed at vitamin E acetate as the likely culprit behind the vaping crisis. The chemical isn’t found in Juul pods, but rather THC-infused vape liquids.