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Cramer: ‘We beat smoking in this country. Then Juul came along.’

CNBC’s Jim Cramer blasted Juul on Wednesday, calling it a “great thing” that the e-cigarette maker is facing widespread criticism and potential crackdowns on its products.

“This was a national health issue treated as if it was some sort of just boutique issue,” Cramer said. “We beat smoking in this country. Then Juul came along.”

Cramer’s comments on CNBC followed the Wednesday morning announcement that Kevin Burns has resigned as CEO of Juul, the market leading e-cigarette company that the government blames for fueling a teen vaping epidemic.

The percentage of Americans smoking cigarettes fell to a record low of roughly 14% in 2017, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the previous year.

Meanwhile, 27.5% of high school students reported using an e-cigarette in the previous 30 days, up from 20.8% in 2018, according to preliminary results from the CDC’s annual National Youth Tobacco Survey, released earlier this month. In 2017, those figures were around 11%.

“I’m just against kids dying; just a long-standing position,” Cramer said on “Squawk Box,” adding later, “I’m anti-teen death and everybody in America should be.”

Cramer also said Juul did a “remarkable job in a very short time” to set the stage “to killing a lot of people.” He said Juul’s rapid rise was “almost unstoppable,” but the current moment represents an opportune time to make changes.

“The only time to stop them is right now,” Cramer said. “What has to happen to people to realize what this stuff does?”

The amount of nicotine in one standard Juul pod is equivalent to one pack of cigarettes, according to the National Center for Health Research. Nicotine is also particularly harmful to adolescent brain development, warns the CDC.

“This is a great thing that this thing’s unraveling,” said Cramer.

Juul was not immediately available to respond to CNBC’s request for comment on Cramer’s remarks.

In addition to numerous states such as New York and Michigan instituting regulations on flavored e-cigarette and vaping products, federal officials also took steps earlier this month to develop guidelines on restrictions.

Flavored products are believed to be more likely to appeal to teens.

Juul initially framed its e-cigarettes as an option for adults looking to switch from tobacco cigarettes — though their popularity spread not to only teens but others who had previously not smoked.

Cramer said if Juul and other c-cigarettes are truly effective at getting people off tobacco, “then make it prescription.”

“We have to have a stand sometimes. We’re humans and we’re parents,” Cramer said, adding, “we have a responsibility to preserve teens.”

As regulators grapple with the teen vaping crisis, federal health officials are also investigating a mysterious lung disease believed to be linked to e-cigarette use. The illness has sickened at least 530 people and killed at least nine. The median age of the victims is 19.

Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CNBC, in an earlier interview Wednesday, “It’s not clear that these acute lung injuries are being caused by the legally sold regulated products, which FDA does oversee the manufacture of.”

“It appears that many of these acute lung injuries are being driven by illegal products that have oils in them,” he said.

The two crises — the lung illnesses and teen vaping — “are not completely disconnected,” said Gottlieb, a health advocate and Pfizer board member. “If we didn’t have so many kids using e-cigarettes we wouldn’t have kids put at risk for acute lung injuries,” he added.