Here’s what Juul Labs CEO Kevin Burns had to say in a prepared statement:
We understand the controversy and skepticism that comes with an affiliation and partnership with the largest tobacco company in the US. We were skeptical as well. But over the course of the last several months we were convinced by actions, not words, that in fact this partnership could help accelerate our success switching adult smokers. We understand the doubt. We doubted as well.
He goes on to explain the strict criteria Juul Labs had for a potential investor, particularly one from the Big Tobacco space. For one, Altria entered into a standstill agreement that limits the company’s ownership in Juul to 35 percent. Altria must also use its database and its distribution network to get the message of Juul out to current smokers.
For the past year, many have seen Juul as a dangerous toy for teenagers. In November, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced new measures for the e-cig industry meant to keep the products out of the hands of teens. One of those measures includes restricting the sale of flavored non-combustible tobacco products beyond the usual cigarette flavors of tobacco and menthol.
But after nearly a year of playing defense, this new deal marks a bit of an offensive push from Juul...