NJOY CEO 'Squawks' on CNBC

Weiss talks about e-cigarette flavors, nicotine vs. caffeine, more

NEW YORK-- Craig Weiss, CEO of electronic cigarette maker NJOY Corp., said in an interview on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" on Monday that while many other e-cigarette companies offer flavors such as pina colada, vanilla, strawberry, NJOY "has stayed away from that just to try to attract adult, committed smokers."

Host Simon Hobbes asked, "So are you saying that various flavorings may be encouraging young people to smoke? Is that implicit in what you are saying?"

Weiss said, "Well, that's what some regulators believe. So they believe that those flavors attract youth. I don't think there is any evidence to support that, but that's a concern among different regulators, and so in abundance of caution, we've stayed away from those flavors and just offered traditional tobacco flavors that are available for cigarettes, which are menthol and traditional tobacco flavor."

The interview continued:

Hobbs: You've got some big investors normally associated with technology--Peter Thiel, Sean Parker.  Help me out here. I don't understand how guys like you can be investing in putting your money on the line here when you actually don't know what the health risks of these are and therefore what the potential liability is.

Weiss: We think of ourselves as a technology company. We're selling a product that has quite a bit of technology packed into a small device. So it's an integrated circuit chip, it's a heating element and it's a power source. We've always thought of ourselves as a technology company. I'm a patent attorney by training.

In terms of the health risks, we actually do know quite a bit. NJOY has undergone quite a few significant third-party testings of our products. We've helped sponsor and fund studies of our products by institutions like the Mayo Clinic and National Institutes of Health, and we're absolutely committed to having not only having the best product, but the best science. And it's that commitment that attracted the 17th Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Richard Carmona, to join our board of directors. And once we get the studies finalized for publication in peer-reviewed scientific journals, which be expect to happen in the next few months, we'll be able to discuss more publicly the findings which we're very pleased with.

Hobbs: So are you trying to draw a clear distinction between your e-cigarettes, which look exactly like a real cigarette and say [Lorillard's] blu cigs? We had them on the other day. Their cigarettes are black with a blue lighting at the end, meant to look completely different. Why the distinction, and why do you think your approach is superior?

Weiss: So blu and now R.J. Reynolds, and even Altria, they're all doing the same thing, which is trying to create a product that doesn't look anything like a cigarette.

From my perspective, we're trying to go after the 46 million American who are adult committed smokers--it's nearly 20% of the adult population--and the best way do that is offer themselves something that is familiar to them. It looks the same, it feels the same, it has a paper feel, it has the flavor of tobacco. And to me, when you narrow the bridge of familiarity for the smoker, you're making it as easy as possible to transition them from the product they're currently using to our product which is in our view a far superior product.

With the tobacco companies, that's a challenge for them because they don't want to cannibalize their core product, which, of course, it the combustion cigarette. And I don't suffer from that handicap of not wanting to necessarily convert committed smokers--that's exactly who my target audience is.

For the full interview, watch the embedded video.