Juul is giving each worker a hefty gift—said to be $1.3 million on average—amid a wave of criticism over its latest investment deal, Inc.com reports. The e-cigarette maker just received a one-time $2 billion dividend payment, insiders say, and is dividing it among 1,500 employees based on factors like their length of employment and amount of stock owned, so payouts may vary. The dividend comes as part of Juul's agreement to let tobacco giant Altria buy 35% of the company for $12.8 billion. But with critics already saying Juul's fruit-flavored products appeal too much to teens, Fast Company reports that Juul "appears to be using hard cash to quiet angst among its employees" who are upset by the deal with Big Tobacco.
After all, Juul is sold as an alternative to cigarettes; its users inhale flavored nicotine juice through a vaporizer without any of the usual ash, tar, or smoke, per Inc.com. But as the New Yorker explains, Juul's attempt to wean people off smoking with flavors like crème brûlée, mango, and mixed fruit is attracting too many young buyers. And with teen vaping on the rise, many more young people are inhaling nicotine. As for the deal, it should help Juul get top-shelf space in stores, improved logistics and distribution, and better legal/lobbying expertise as the e-cig maker faces greater financial and regulatory pressure, per CNBC. But is that a good thing? It is if you're Juul, or an employee hoping for a windfall. (Legal pot could be Altria's next move.)