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Leading Addiction Researcher Joins Juul Tobacco Company

If you’ve been following our blogs, then you know we’ve been discussing the e-cigarette company Juul Laboratories for some time now. One of the leaders associated with the “vaping” craze, they have received a fair share of criticism for attracting teens towards tobacco. In an effort to combat that, senior executives at the company have now hired a leading addiction researcher onto their full-time staff.

Dr. Mark Rubinstein hails from UC San Francisco. In his previous role, he was one of the leads at their center for Tobacco Control Research and Education. Now apparently, he is going to work for Juul as the company’s medical director. The intent, they claim, is to help curb the onslaught of teens inappropriately using their products by having an in-house addiction specialist.

For the record, Dr. Rubinstein does have a strong background in this field. He has done notable research on teen dependencies and how nicotine affects adolescents. He also been a vocal critic of vaping and its harmful nature on the youth culture.

That, of course, makes the hiring sound puzzling for several of Dr. Rubinstein’s peers. Speaking to The Los Angeles Times, fellow colleague (and Stanford University professor) Bonnie Halpern-Felsher openly criticized the decision.

“I am shocked and depressed by Dr. Rubinstein’s decision to leave UCSF for Juul.” she said to The Times. “Even if you believe in harm reduction, to go work for a tobacco company … to me goes against everything that anybody doing control should believe in.”

Others, however, were hopeful that Dr. Rubinstein’s new role would be a positive move. All of his colleagues that were interviewed for the Times article agreed that teen vaping is an epidemic that must be stopped. But fellow UCSF professor Dr. Neal Benowitz believes that, on the inside, Rubinstein can hopefully make a bigger difference.

“I will admit that I was shocked by the job change,” Dr. Benowitz added. “But if anyone can help figure out strategies to reduce youth vaping, it’s Rubinstein.”

Juul, not surprisingly, has been trying to spin their products in a more positive light. At their core, they claim that their e-cigs have legitimate potential in helping people addicted to traditional cigarettes. They say they want to continue that goal, while also bringing experts like Dr. Rubinstein in to advise on the “unintended side effects” of teens picking up Juul merchandise.

But the company will always have their doubters (especially when you look at their teen-oriented marketing campaigns and profit margins). It remains to be seen whether someone like Dr. Rubinstein can truly change the narrative of this story.