Highlights of history

  • Juul CEO Kevin Burns said he would tell parents whose children are addicted to Juul's electronic cigarettes, "I'm sorry."
  • Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb blames a teenager for vaping "epidemic" in Juul.
  • CNBC investigates the debate about electronic cigarettes in a documentary entitled "Vaporizado: the addiction to the electronic cigarette of the United States".

Kevin Burns, CEO of Juul Labs el- the best-selling electronic cigarette manufacturer in the US UU And the center of federal regulators in their crackdown on what they call an "epidemic" of vaping adolescents – has a message for parents whose children are addicted to their company's products: "I'm sorry."

Since its launch in 2015, Juul has quickly come to dominate the electronic cigarette industry with approximately 40% of the market, becoming such a dominant player that Altria, the leading US cigarette company, invested $ 12.8 billion for a 35% share in San Francisco. based on the start-up.

But the company has a problem: its vapes are incredibly popular with teenagers.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has declared a teen "vaping" as an "epidemic," citing data from a federal survey that showed that nearly 21% of high school students vaped the year past. Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and health care advocates blamed Juul for the increase in adolescent vaping.

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Carl Quintanilla, from CNBC, interviewed Burns for a documentary, "Vaporized: America's E-cigarette Addiction," which premieres on Monday at 10 p.m. EDT Quintanilla, who visited one of Juul's manufacturing facilities in Wisconsin with Burns, asked him what he would say to a father with a son who was addicted to Juul.

"First of all, I would say that I am sorry that your children are using the product," said Burns, who joined Juul at the end of 2017. "It is not designed for them, I hope we have not done anything that made them attractive. father of a 16-year-old girl, I feel sorry for them and I feel empathy for them, in terms of the challenges they are going through. "

The company has tried to combat youthful use by closing its social media accounts and bringing out fruit flavors such as cream and mango from retailers. So far, that has not stopped the criticism. The company's hometown, San Francisco, banned e-cigarette sales last month.

Electronic cigarettes are being marketed for adults to help them stop smoking while they continue to receive their dose of nicotine. But they have been attacked in recent months because of their growing popularity among teenagers. Federal data shows that approximately 3 million high school students in the US UU They vaped last year. That is raising fears that electronic cigarettes are adding to a new generation of nicotine after decades of declines in cigarette consumption rates.

& # 39; It would always be in my hands & # 39;

Pam Debono's daughter, Grace, picked up a Juul in the summer of 2017. When she was 15 years old, Juul was starting to take off. Debono calls it "Juul's summer", when he started looking for plastic covers everywhere that "I really had no idea what they were".

Grace told CNBC that a friend of his bought the Juul pods and devices at a gas station. Both girls were 15 years old at that time. Grace said she would hit her Juul first thing in the morning and inflate her all day long, going through a nicotine capsule a day, about the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.

"It would always be in my hands," he said. "Like, he would always be with me, you know, and so I would always like, like, to hit him because it was so easy."

He was arrested there a year earlier: 69-year-old anarchist shot, killed after attacking the Washington migrant detention center.

Stanford professor of pediatrics, Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, said her research team discovered that children are "more addicted" to Juul than to other products because the level of nicotine in Juul's pods is "astronomically high." Juul pods contain 5% nicotine, while other pods before the introduction of Juul contain between about 1% and 2.4% on average, according to the Truth Initiative, a non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating tobacco. Since then, the company has introduced lower doses with 3% nicotine for some of its flavors.

Juul says his products are intended for adults, not minors like Grace. The company supports raising the minimum age for smoking to 21 years to prevent teenagers from buying their electronic cigarettes.

However, Juul's critics point to the company's initial advertising campaign, which featured bright colors and young-looking models, as evidence that Juul fueled the rise in teen vaping. Co-founder Adam Bowen said that, in retrospect, the ads were "inappropriate."

"When we launched Juul, we had a campaign that was possibly too lifestyle-oriented, too flashy," he said. "It lasted less than six months. It was in the first days of the introduction of the product. We believe it had no impact on sales. "

How the FDA is getting involved

Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the FDA, says that the increase in adolescent vaping surprised the FDA. While at the agency, Gottlieb delayed a key deadline that would have forced electronic cigarettes to undergo an FDA review by now and could have eliminated some from the market. Now he is not sure he made the right decision.

"That's a good question [whether the delay was a mistake]and it's a question that I get all the time, "Gottlieb said." And we struggle with it. "

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The FDA review process requires the agency to assess the net benefit to public health, which means that it must weigh how many adults will benefit from them compared to the number of adolescents who could be harmed, when deciding whether to allow that the products remain in the market.

In 2017, Gottlieb extended the deadline to 2022 as of 2018. After seeing the increase in teen use this fall, he had a change of attitude. One of his last acts before resigning in April was to increase the deadline by one year.

The courts can force the agency to work even faster. A federal judge agreed with the public health groups that sued the FDA for evading its public duty.

Some say it is too early to judge electronic cigarettes because there is not enough data and they have not existed enough to understand the effects of long-term use.

"Frankly, we do not know [the impact of chronic vaping] today, "said Burns, the CEO of Juul." We have not done the long-term, longitudinal clinical tests we need to do. "

Despite the unknowns, some researchers say that electronic cigarettes could help the US to 34.3 million smokers. Regulators in the USA UU They are actively encouraging smokers to give up their cigarettes in favor of electronic cigarettes, while the debate in the US. UU It is much more controversial.

"Vaporizado: the addiction to the electronic cigarette of the United States" is transmitted by CNBC on Monday July 15 at 10 p.m. EDT.

Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a contributor to CNBC.

© CNBC is a content partner of USA TODAY that offers news and financial commentary. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.

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