Teens are now vaping more than ever. Is Juul Labs, makers of the sleek e-cig pods that dominate about 40% of the market, to blame?
For a long time, Juul has vehemently denied their responsibility in what many health officials are now calling an epidemic. They say their product is intended for adults trying to quit smoking. Juul claims to have never targeted teens as consumers -- though an independent assessment of thousands of early Juul Instagram ads, emails, and ads found their marketing was "was patently youth-oriented."
And now, Juul's CEO Kevin Burns, has a message for parents of teens who are addicted to their Juul pods: "I'm sorry."
An apology -- with a caveat
This came up when Burns was touring one of Juul's manufacturing facilities with journalist Carl Quintanilla. Quintanilla, an anchor for CNBC, was filming a documentary titled 'Vaporized: America's E-cigarette Addiction.' He asked what Burns would tell a parent whose child was addicted to Juul.
Here's Burns' full apology, as quoted by USA Today.
First of all, I'd tell them that I'm sorry that their child's using the product. 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.
He reiterates the company's textbook response to the issue: Juul isn't meant for teens.
Notice that Burns is not claiming responsibility for the sheer number of teens vaping. Which, by the way, is pretty high. In 2018, 37 percent of 12th graders reported to "any vaping" in the prior year, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Juul now worth more than SpaceX
Let's not forget that saying our parents hammered home to us: Actions speak louder than words. An apology isn't worth much if nothing changes.
Juul e-cig pods have reached cult status, especially among teens. The company's revenue continues to skyrocket, year over year. In 2018, Juul pulled in $1 billion in profits. Their revenue is expected to triple to $3.4 billion in 2019, according to Reuters.
Altria Group, the parent company of Philip Morris, also owns a 35 percent stake in Juul. When Altria Group made the $12.8 billion deal last year, Juul was valued at $38 billion.
"By voting to invest in Juul at a valuation of $38 billion, Altria's board made the calculation that Juul is worth twice as much as Lyft, or about $8 billion more than Airbnb and Elon Musk's SpaceX," Yahoo! Finance reported.
Time's running out for Juul to make their case to the FDA
Juul is facing a deadline to make its case to the Food and Drug Administration to be able to continue to sell its products. Juul and other e-cigarette makers have nine months to submit applications that would allow them to stay on the market.