Juul’s CEO has abruptly stepped down, and the San Francisco-headquartered company will suspend all broadcast, print and digital product advertising as a crackdown on the vaping industry it dominates intensifies.

Kevin Burns’s departure from the company he co-founded is immediate, and the firm has named veteran tobacco industry executive K.C. Crosthwaite to take over.

The company has been under fire in recent months after a spate of lung-related illnesses among people who vape. Juul products account for about three-quarters of all sales in the fast-growing, $6-billion US industry.

Originally designed to be a product to help smokers wean themselves off tobacco, vaping and the industry have been criticized for seemingly getting an entirely new generation of people to start consuming tobacco — especially young people.

The company recently opened its first branded store in Toronto. (Michael Wilson/CBC)

Burns made headlines in recent weeks in a stunning TV interview during which he told non-smokers not to use his company’s product.

In addition to the managerial shakeup, Juul on Wednesday said it will suspend all broadcast, print and digital product advertising in the U.S., and will stop lobbying the government to implement legislative policies that benefit them.

In a news release, Crosthwaite says: “I have long believed in a future where adult smokers overwhelmingly choose alternative products like Juul,” he said. “Unfortunately, today that future is at risk due to unacceptable levels of youth usage and eroding public confidence in our industry.

“Against that backdrop, we must strive to work with regulators, policymakers and other stakeholders, and earn the trust of the societies in which we operate.”