Juul hires leading teen addiction researcher as medical director

Last year, the FDA labeled teen vaping an “epidemic”

Published July 26, 2019 7:30AM (EDT)


This article originally appeared on Kaiser Health News.

Juul Labs, the nation’s leading manufacturer of e-cigarettes, has hired as its medical director a prominent University of California researcher known for his work on the dangers nicotine poses for the adolescent brain.

The company said the hire will support its efforts to stem a teen vaping craze the Food and Drug Administration has labeled an epidemic. But critics see a cynical tactic taken straight from the Big Tobacco playbook.

Dr. Mark Rubinstein, a pediatrician and formerly a leading researcher with UC San Francisco’s Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, took up the post of executive medical officer at Juul last week, a move first reported by Politico. Rubinstein has done signature research on teen addiction and how nicotine, which is present in high levels in e-cigarettes, affects adolescents. He has spoken openly of the potential risks of vaping for children.

In a statement, Juul said Rubinstein would oversee research on underage use of vapor products, guide the company’s youth prevention programs and policy positions, and help form links with the public health community. The company declined to make Rubinstein available for an interview. It says the move is part of its effort to reduce teen vaping while it continues to provide an alternative to smoking for adults.

Colleagues of Rubinstein, however, said they were disturbed by the move and skeptical of Juul’s motivations. At the heart of their concerns is whether Juul is willing to lose the giant base of teen users who have helped fuel the company’s meteoric rise and hefty market share.

By Anna Maria Barry-Jester