Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids slams Juul’s ‘fake apology’

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An employee picks up a Juul Labs device kit for a customer at a store in San Francisco, California, on Wednesday, June 26, 2019.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids slammed Juul’s “fake apology” on Monday, saying it’s “a blatant attempt to deflect attention from the company’s wrongdoing” in “creating the youth e-cigarette epidemic.”

Food and Drug Administration officials are calling teen vaping an “epidemic,” with federal data showing 3 million U.S. high school students vaped last year. Some critics, including former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, blame the surge in teen vaping on Juul.

CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla interviewed Juul CEO Kevin Burns for a documentary, “Vaporized: America’s E-cigarette Addiction,” which premieres Monday at 10 p.m. ET. Quintanilla, who toured one of Juul’s manufacturing facilities in Wisconsin with Burns, asked him what he would say to a parent with a child who was addicted to Juul.

“First of all, I’d tell them that I’m sorry that their child’s using the product, ” Burns said. “It’s not intended for them. I hope there was nothing that we did that made it appealing to them. As a parent of a 16-year-old, I’m sorry for them, and I have empathy for them, in terms of what the challenges they’re going through.”

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids President Matthew Myers slammed the apology, calling it “a deceptive, self-serving gesture by Juul given their complete refusal to take responsibility for creating the youth e-cigarette epidemic.”

“It is a blatant attempt to deflect attention from the company’s wrongdoing while it opposes meaningful government regulation to prevent it from continuing to addict kids,” Myers said Monday in a statement. “There can be no doubt about Juul’s role in the current youth epidemic: It marketed a sleek, cool, high-tech product that comes in sweet flavors that appeal to kids, delivers a massive dose of nicotine that can quickly hook kids and was launched with social media marketing that a Stanford study found was patently youth-oriented.”

Juul did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

The company says its products are meant for adults, not minors. It pulled fruity flavors from stores and shuttered its social media accounts last fall, facing pressure from the FDA. Juul also supports raising the minimum smoking age to 21 to keep teenagers from buying its e-cigarettes.

“Vaporized: America’s E-cigarette Addiction” airs on CNBC on Monday, July 15, at 10 p.m. ET.

Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC contributor.

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