As officials look into at least 193 possible cases of a mystifying, vaping-related lung disease that has lead to at least one death, the CEO of Juul says the company isn’t ready to take the vape pens off the shelves yet. In an interview with CBS This Morning, Juul Labs CEO Kevin Burns admitted that the recent cases surrounding vaping were "worrisome," but he said that he needed more conclusive information in order to make changes to the company’s products, which are popular among teens and young adults.
He called the vaping-linked illness reports that the Centers for Disease Control is investigating: “worrisome for the category; worrisome for us, if we contributed to it.”
“[The] CDC is leading the investigations; we’re obviously in close contact with them,” he said. “They’re in charge of the investigation, we like to get all the specifics that we can. We want to make sure that we have access to all the information so if there’s any issue that was associated with us, we can get to the root cause to understand that.”
Vaping is a fairly new frontier. It involves using an electronic cigarette or similar device to inhale a liquid solution containing nicotine, flavoring, THC, or other chemical additives. Researchers are still trying to figure out what the long-term health impacts of the practice are, but studies suggest they worsen asthma symptoms and can cause lung problems, Enid Neptune, MD, associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and co-chair of the ATS Tobacco Action Committee, previously told Refinery29.
But with vaping being so new, the effects — both short- and long-term — are inconclusive and that's what Burns emphasized in his interview with CBS This Morning. He says officials aren’t sure if Juul’s at fault for lung illness, and believes some of the problems are related to THC vaping.
“I don’t know if it’s tied to vaping or even associated with nicotine products — most of the early reports have indicated it’s related to THC, so,” he said. The CBS journalist interviewing him, Tony Dokoupil, stopped him, saying that the characterization “most” wasn’t exactly accurate.
Still, Burns said he feels “confident” about continuing to sell Juuls. "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.
At first, people saw Juul and e-cigarettes like it as a healthier alternative to cigarettes. But the thing is, it’s hard to compare the two because they each contain different substances, Ilona Jaspers, a toxicologist at the University of North Carolina, told Politico. “We’re going to be finding things we’ve never seen with smoking cigarettes,” she said. “It’s a different disease.”
As Dokoupil put it as he closed his CBS segment: "Cigarettes themselves were a tragedy in the 20th century. People are critical of Juul because they don't want to see a second tragedy with e-cigarettes."
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