Juul Labs is halting all U.S. advertising of its e-cigarettes and replacing its CEO amid a nationwide backlash against vaping.
The largest e-cigarette maker also said Wednesday it won’t fight a sweeping ban on flavors proposed by the Trump administration to reverse a surge in underage vaping.
Juul’s CEO will be replaced by a senior executive from Altria, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes. Altria took a 35% stake in Juul in December at a cost of $13 billion.
The shake-up comes amid growing public furor over vaping that has triggered calls for tighter restrictions at the federal and state levels. Massachusetts said Tuesday it will ban all vaping products for four months, the first such step in the country.
E-cigarettes have been largely unregulated since first arriving in the U.S. in 2007. After multiple delays, the Food and Drug Administration has set a deadline of next May for manufacturers to submit their products for review.
The makers of e-cigarettes are now fighting to survive as they face two public health debacles linked to vaping: a mysterious lung illness and rising use of e-cigarettes by teenagers.
Juul’s new chief, K.C. Crosthwaite, in a statement, said Juul has long focused on providing adult smokers with alternatives, but recognized that there’s “unacceptable levels of youth usage and eroding public confidence in our industry.”
Health experts generally consider e-cigarettes less harmful than traditional cigarettes because they don’t contain all the cancer-causing byproducts of burning tobacco. But there’s virtually no long-term research on the health effects of the aerosol produced by vaping. E-cigarettes generally heat a liquid with nicotine to create a vapor.
Public health officials are investigating hundreds of recent cases of the breathing ailment. Most of the illnesses have involved vaping THC from marijuana, but officials have not yet implicated any common product or ingredient.
Meanwhile, underage vaping has reached epidemic levels, according to top government health officials. In a government survey, more than 1 in 4 high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the previous month. Federal law bans sales to those under 18.
Vaping opponents met Juul’s changes with skepticism.
“Juul’s announcement today is aimed at repairing its image and protecting its profits, not at solving this crisis,” said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Policymakers must stand up to Juul and protect our kids by banning flavored e-cigarettes.”
Also on Wednesday, tobacco giants Altria and Philip Morris International said they were calling off merger talks a month after first floating a deal that would have created the world’s largest tobacco company. Altria’s stake in Juul was considered a key factor in the deal. And a combination with Philip Morris would have given Juul access to the tobacco company’s global network and resources.
Juul’s e-cigarettes first went on sale in 2015 and the company quickly propelled itself to the top of the market with a combination of high-nicotine pods, dessert and fruit flavors and viral marketing. Today, the San Francisco company controls roughly 70% of the U.S. e-cigarette market.
The company now faces multiple investigations from Congress, several federal agencies — including the FDA — and state attorneys general. Earlier this month, President Donald Trump said that the federal government will act to ban thousands of flavors used in e-cigarettes because they appeal to underage users.
Crosthwaite, who was Altria’s chief growth officer, replaces Juul’s CEO, Kevin Burns.
Shares of both Altria and Philip Morris rose in early trading, with Philip Morris’ stock jumping almost 7%, but Altria sank later in the day and was down 2.5% around 1:45 p.m. EDT.
EBay CEO Clashes With Board, Steps Down
Devin Wenig, the CEO of eBay, stepped down over differences with the company’s board of directors.
“In the past few weeks it became clear that I was not on the same page as my new Board,” Wenig tweeted Wednesday, without elaborating on the disagreements. “Whenever that happens, its best for everyone to turn that page over.”
we grew, and transformed, and added to one of the most special communities in the world. To the sellers, the consumers and the employees, you have made a lifelong impression on me that i wont soon forget. @ebay is an example of why we shouldn’t give up on big tech companies
— Devin Wenig (@devinwenig) September 25, 2019
Ebay said there wasn’t one factor leading to the change in leadership.
“Both Devin and the Board believe that a new CEO is best for the company at this time,” eBay said in a prepared statement.
Ebay, which is facing increasing competition from Amazon and other online stores, has been pressured by activist investor Elliott Management to sell off some of its sites. In March, eBay said it might sell its ticket-reselling site StubHub and its classified ads business to focus on its main online sales site. It also added two new directors to its board chosen by Elliott.
When it was launched more than two decades ago, eBay dominated the online marketplace, giving anyone the chance to sell goods over the internet.
Today, it’s competing against, among others, Amazon.com, which posted revenue last year of more than $230 billion. In 2018, eBay had annual revenues of $10.7 billion.
Amazon has said that 58% of the products sold on its site last year came from third-party sellers, the type of businesses that eBay relies on for its sales. Amazon was sued by eBay this year after accusing the company of having employees attempt to poach sellers from its site.
Wenig also stepped down as director of the board Wednesday. The company said that Chief Financial Officer Scott Schenkel will become the interim chief executive as it seeks a permanent replacement for Wenig, who has been CEO since 2015.
Shares of eBay Inc., which are up 20% in the past year, were down 2.2% around 1:45 p.m. EDT.
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