THE boss of a major e-cigarette firm has quit amid growing backlash against vaping.
It comes as health officials in the US confirmed the 11th death linked to vaping, yesterday.
Kevin Burns, CEO of Juul, stepped down on the same day as the company said it would suspend all advertising across the US.
At the same time, talks between Altria – who owns 35 per cent of Juul – and tobacco giant Philip Morris broke down.
Mr Burns said: “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.”
Juul Labs is facing intense scrutiny as teen use of e-cigarettes surges.
The e-cigarette firm has been accused of targeting kids, and is facing multiple investigations, including into its marketing strategies.
Juul – which makes the distinctive USB-style e-cigarettes – has promoted its product as a safer alternative to smoking.
But the Food and Drugs Administration in the US has warned the company it makes these claims without providing the science to back it up.
Earlier this month the Trump administration announced plans to ban all flavoured e-cigarettes, due to fears they encourage teenagers to take up the highly addictive habit.
The number of high school students using e-cigarettes has more than doubled over the past two years, with 27.5 per cent of teens saying they had tried an e-cigarette in the last month, according to federal data.
Vaping death toll hits 11
Yesterday, it was announced two more people have died of a severe lung disease linked to vaping – bringing the US death toll to 11.
Health officials in Florida and Georgia both reported the first deaths in their states from thee-cigarette-related illness yesterday.
Georgia officials said the person who died had “a history of heavy nicotine vaping”.
Florida officials did not share addition information on the death in their state.
They are the latest deaths following a spike in people being struck down with mysterious and life-threatening lung diseases in the US.
The previous nine deaths occurred in the states of Kansas, Indiana, Missouri, Minnesota, California, Oregon and Illinois.
Californian officials have since echoed the stark warnings delivered across the US – urging the public to stop all forms of vaping immediately.
The state’s public health department made the plea in a health advisory which urged “everyone to refrain from vaping, no matter the substance or source” until investigations into the epidemic have concluded.
The department said to date it has received reports that 90 Californians with a history of vaping have been hospitalised with severe breathing problems and lung damage, while Californians have already died.
Dr Charity Dean, California’s public health officer, said: “We are seeing something that we have not seen before.
“There are numerous unknown factors at this time, and due to the uncertainty of the exact cause, it is our recommendation that consumers refrain from vaping until the investigation has concluded.”
Surge in cases of vaping lung disease
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 530 confirmed and probable cases have been reported in 38 states and one US territory.
The growing toll has prompted officials to launch a criminal investigation.
However, they are still struggling to identify a single product or chemical in e-cigarettes behind the outbreak.
MORE ON E-CIGARETTES
Mitch Zeller, a director at the Food and Drug Administration, said: “The focus is on the supply chain.”
The illness was first reported in April and all patients are known to have used e-cigarettes — some containing the cannabinoid THC.
Symptoms can include fatigue, coughing, breathlessness and vomiting or diarrhoea.
Two US states, New York and Michigan have already banned flavoured e-cigs, and Massachusetts has banned all vaping products for four months.
Walmart said it would stop selling e-cigarettes, last week, citing the regulatory uncertainty.