Juul opened an e-cigarette plant in Lexington just last year that was expected to bring in 500 jobs and be a $125 million investment.
Just over a year later, the plant is closed, and the Juul company is fighting to regain the trust of society, according to a Juul spokesperson.
Due to “rapid changes in the landscape of the vapor category,” operations in S.C. “are no longer viable,” said a Juul representative in a statement sent to The State. The plant was a combined operation with subcontractor Flex in West Columbia, near the Columbia Metropolitan Airport.
Rapid changes include the fact the President Donald Trump required flavored vapes be taken off the market shortly after the plant began operations in Lexington. The Trump Administration announced this move as a strategy to reduce under-aged vaping by limiting the use of flavors, according to NPR. The decision was later reversed.
The closing was initially reported by the Post and Courier.
S.C. Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, said her support of the plant changed after she learned more about the health effects of vaping.
“You know when it first came, everybody’s all about jobs, but then we had the public hearings on the effects and all that stuff. So it’s really not something I’m encouraged with,” said Shealy.
Additionally, Shealy said that hirings were “nowhere near” the 500 number that was originally anticipated.
Juul teamed up with Flex to produce Juul products in Lexington County, but began scaling back operations during the beginning of the summer, according to a Juul spokesperson. The company said that affected employees were offered competitive separation packages and it will continue to look for investment opportunities in S.C.
To combat the societal perceptions of vaping, the company stated, “We will continue to reset the vapor category in the U.S. and seek to earn the trust of society by working cooperatively with attorneys general, legislators, regulators, public health officials, and other stakeholders to combat underage use and transition adult smokers from combustible cigarettes.”
These measures will include reducing its product portfolio and halting television, print and digital product advertising.
In October, Lexington County School District 1 joined other schools across the country in suing Juul for a reported jump in the amount of vaping by students in S.C. high schools. The lawsuit accused Juul of targeting users under the age of 18 to buy its products.
A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that 21.6% of S.C. high school students use tobacco products. A 2019 survey of tobacco use among young people found 39.5% of high school students have used an e-cigarette, 22% in the last 30 days.
The company said in a statement that part of its efforts to “reset the vapor category in the U.S.” includes marketing to a customer base of “the world’s 1 billion adult smokers.”