Juul CEO shakeup includes halt on advertising in US

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  • Juul said its CEO Kevin Burns is stepping down and will be immediately replaced by a long-time Altria executive.
  • Juul also said it will cease all print, broadcast and online advertising in the U.S. 
  • Altria, the owner of Philip Morris, last year bought a $13 billion stake in Juul. 

Juul on Wednesday said that CEO Kevin Burns is stepping down effective immediately and will be replaced by an Altria executive. The shakeup comes amid a regulatory crackdown on vaping, now linked to hundreds of illnesses and at least eight deaths, as well as mounting scrutiny of Juul’s marketing practices. 

The appointment of K.C. Crosthwaite, a long-time Altria executive, to head Juul comes as the tobacco company’s $13 billion stake in Juul appears increasingly at risk, given the regulatory issues facing the vaping industry. In December, Altria CEO Howard Willard described the investment as nothing less than a move “to prepare for a future where adult smokers overwhelmingly choose non-combustible products over cigarettes.”

But that future appears to be less certain today. While Juul’s products haven’t been directly linked to the eight vaping-related deaths, the company’s woes have multiplied in recent months, and Altria shares have tumbled almost 20% so far this year. 

Among the challenges facing Juul are a reported criminal probe from federal prosecutors in California and questions about the safety of vaping, which prompted Massachusetts on Tuesday to place a temporary ban on all vaping products. 

In announcing Burns’s departure, Juul also said it will immediately suspend all broadcast, print and digital advertising in the U.S. and halt lobbying the Trump administration on its proposal to ban flavored e-cigarettes.

Juul said Crosthwaite will lead “a broad review of the company’s practices and policies to ensure alignment with its aim of responsible leadership within the industry,” according to a statement issued Wednesday.

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