JUUL co-founder James Monsees is leaving the embattled vape company he helped turn into a multi-billion-dollar empire, stepping down from roles as an adviser and board member.

juul charging 375x210 JUUL co founder James Monsees steps down amid global cutbacksThe company announced Mr. Monsees’ departure in a March 12 email to employees. The news comes amid a $1 billion cutback in global spending that forced the departure of two international executives.

“After 15 years on this tremendous journey, it is with a great deal of thought and consideration that I have decided it is time for me to move on from JUUL Labs and step down from our Board,” Mr. Monsees said in an internal memo obtained by BuzzFeed News. “These many years have been incredible, and I did not make this decision lightly.”

Mr. Monsees and Adam Bowen were studying product design at Stanford University when they developed their first vaping device called the Ploom. They started a company by the same name in 2007, and that company changed its name to Pax Labs in 2015.

The pair developed a new device they called the JUUL in 2015. In 2017, JUUL Labs spun out from Pax as a new and separate company.

JUUL took advantage of the then-unregulated vape industry to design and promote vaping products that aggressively targeted minors and young adults. The company went from a start-up to a multi-billion-dollar corporation within two years and its valuation soared even further to $38 billion when the international tobacco giant Altria bought a one-third stake in the company for $13 billion.

Altria invested in JUUL even as some federal officials placed the company in their crosshairs, blaming it for deliberately creating an epidemic of youth vaping. However, Altria’s powerful influence on Capitol Hill ultimately wasn’t enough to completely stop the tide of investigations, regulatory crackdowns, lawsuits, and widespread criticism that resulted from the surge in youth vaping.

Faced with a shrinking market in the U.S., JUUL set its sights on Asia and other foreign markets. Most of those emerging international markets weren’t as welcoming as executives likely had envisioned and many actively blocked the company from preying on their youth markets. Some banned the company’s products completely.

Last week, JUUL announced the resignations of Grant Winterton, who served as JUUL’s president of Europe, the Middle East and Africa since 2018, and Ken Bishop, president of JUUL Asia Pacific South, who also had joined the company in 2018.

Mr. Monsees said in the JUUL memo announcing his own resignation that he had recently gotten married and was “looking forward to spending more time with my family and pursuing other interests both personally and professionally.”

JUUL has been trying to rebrand itself as an adult product and an alternative to smoking, but those campaigns haven’t met with the same success the company saw when it targeted kids and teens.

Beasley Allen lawyers Joseph VanZandt and Sydney Everett, together with Mass Torts Section Head Andy Birchfield, are currently representing several individuals who are suing the top U.S. vape maker JUUL for the negative impact its products have had on their lives. They also have filed lawsuits on behalf of school districts nationwide, which seek to protect students and recover resources spent fighting the vaping epidemic.

Additional source: Bloomberg

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