Juul Labs on Tuesday hired its part-owner Altria Group’s head of regulatory affairs, Joe Murillo, to take on a similar role at the e-cigarette maker, amid a regulatory backlash against the growth of teen vaping in the United States.
Murillo is the first big hire by Juul's new chief executive officer, K.C. Crosthwaite, who himself moved over from Altria last week.
Altria owns a 35.5 percent stake in Juul, which last week made the major announcement that it would suspend all advertising in the United States, where the Trump administration has announced plans to remove all flavored e-cigarettes from store shelves to rising popularity among teenagers.
In his new role, Murillo will help guide the applications that Juul must submit by May to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for any products it wants to keep on the market beyond that point.
“The company is fully committed to supporting and complying with FDA's final effective flavor policy and to working through the PMTA (premarket tobacco product application) process V, a process Joe understands well and one he will help lead JUUL Labs through,'' Crosthwaite said in an emailed statement. “We invite an open dialog, will listen to others and will be responsive to their concerns.”
Murillo, a lawyer by training, joined Altria in 1995. He oversaw the tobacco giant’s e-cigarette business, Nu Mark, before Altria shelved its e-cigarettes as part of the deal with Juul.
The FDA last month warned the company about marketing its products as safer than traditional cigarettes and requested more documents and information within 30 days.
It was announced earlier Tuesday that Juul said it would no longer attempt to overturn an anti-vaping law that San Francisco had passed earlier this year. The e-cigarette company had reportedly been the sole significant source of financial funding for the campaign to vote "yes" on Proposition C, which would appear on the ballot in November.
Juul has not only had to deal with those vaping bans in this country. When India announced its country-wide ban of vaping products two weeks ago, it put Juul’s plans to launch its e-cigarette there in jeopardy.
Flavored e-cigarettes represent 80 percent of Juul's sales. The company's had dropped to about $25 billion, from $38 billion when Altria invested in it, according to Morgan Stanley.
Federal prosecutors in California are conducting a criminal probe into Juul, The Wall Street Journal reported last month, though it said the focus of the probe was unclear.