Juul CEO says respiratory illness cases are ‘worrisome’


The CDC is looking into an outbreak of severe lung disease in people who vape.

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Juul, one of the country’s top e-cigarette companies, is responding to the growing number of health issues being reported in people who vape. In an interview with CBS This Morning, CEO Kevin Burns said the recent health cases involving vaping are “worrisome.” Burns also had a message for nonsmokers: don’t use Juul

“Don’t vape. Don’t use Juul,” Burns said in the interview, which aired Thursday. “Don’t start using nicotine if you don’t have a preexisting relationship with nicotine. Don’t use the product. You’re not our target consumer.”

Vape pens were designed to help people quit smoking or get their nicotine fix without the harmful effects of cigarettes. But an increasing number of people who vape have wound up in the hospital with lung issues, seizures and other health concerns

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating nearly 200 potential lung illness cases, across 22 states, that may be tied to vaping and e-cigarette use. The CDC said in a statement Friday that the recent death, by severe lung disease, of a patient in Illinois who’d used an e-cigarette or vaping device “reinforces the serious risks associated with e-cigarette products.” The agency’s statement added that “e-cigarettes are not safe for youth, young adults, pregnant women, or adults who do not currently use tobacco products.”

Burns said the CDC has been in “close contact” with Juul.

“If there was any indication that there was an adverse health condition related to our product, I think we’d take very swift action,” Burns said in the interview.

The CDC didn’t respond to a request for additional comment. 

Burns also told CBS This Morning that the company is working with vendors on an ID verification system that prevents cashiers from selling e-cigarettes to underage customers. He pushed back on allegations that Juul specifically targeted children as customers, saying “I don’t think our campaign was ever targeted to kids.”

“We don’t need to target youth to grow our business, to be successful, and fulfill our mission,” he added. 

In a statement Wednesday, a spokesperson for Juul said the company is keeping an eye on the lung illness cases and has “robust safety monitoring systems in place.”

Editors’ note: The Techy Trends is owned by CBS.

Originally published Aug. 28, 12:19 p.m. PT.
Updates, 2:06 p.m.: Adds statement from Juul; Aug. 29: Includes more details from Burns’ interview with CBS This Morning.