Troubled vaping company Juul is suspending all broadcast, print and digital product advertising in the U.S. as it fends off mounting investigations and litigation tied to its role in allegedly hooking teens on its flavored nicotine pods.
The decision, announced Wednesday, comes as Juul culls its staff and shakes up its executive ranks, replacing CEO Kevin Burns with former Altria executive K.C. Crosthwaite, effective immediately.
Major media companies have dropped Juul's advertising in recent weeks as deaths from a mysterious vaping-related illness climb and health regulators around the world pull flavored vaping products off their shelves. Health regulators in India instituted a wholesale ban on all e-cigarettes last week. CNBC first reported last week that CBS, WarnerMedia and Viacom were pulling those ads from their networks.
The Food and Drug Administration threatened to fine Juul and criticized its marketing and promotional activities, saying its claims that Juul was a safer alternative to cigarettes violated regulations that require the agency to review smoking cessation devices. It also said it was concerned about the company's "Make the Switch" campaign.
Juul has maintained its advertising didn't violate agency rules because it didn't say its e-cigarettes could help people quit smoking. Its "Make the Switch" ad campaign, instead, promoted its devices as a way to "switch" from cigarettes to vaping.
The TV ads currently running include names of people who have "made the switch" to Juul for a variety of reasons, like spending more time with their significant other.
Companies can't advertise their products as less harmful than cigarettes without the FDA first approving the claims, and Juul has not yet submitted an application with the FDA.
According to ad measurement company iSpot, Juul has spent more than $31 million on 9,464 airings of television spots in the U.S. since Jan. 8, the day the campaign was announced. The ads also appeared via print, online and radio, including a full-page print ad saying, "The average smoker tries to quit over 30 times. Make the switch."