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Juul accused of selling 1 million tainted vaping pods to customers and retailers

A new lawsuit claims that Juul shipped and sold contaminated vaping pods to customers and retailers. A former executive for the e-cigarette maker alleges that at least one million tainted pods were put on the market earlier this year. Juul is already under fire following an outbreak of vaping-related illnesses and deaths nationwide.

Former Juul senior vice president Siddharth Breja claims he was fired in March for raising concerns about the contaminated pods the company allegedly shipped to customers and retailers. Breja says in a lawsuit that he raised concerns about the contamination of Juul's "mint refill kits." He also said he voiced concern about the company selling expired products in meetings with senior management.

The lawsuit cites several instances where Breja expressed concerns about the quality of the products being sold, reports CBS News correspondent Anna Werner.

According to the lawsuit, then-CEO Kevin Burns responded to those concerns saying: "Half our customers are drunk and vaping like mo-fo's, who the f*** is going to notice the quality of our pods?"

Burns, who stepped down from Juul last month, denied making such a remark. "I never said this, or anything remotely close to this, period. As CEO, I had the company make huge investments in product quality, and the facts will show this claim is absolutely false and pure fiction," Burns said in a statement to CBS News.

Burns told "CBS This Morning" co-host Tony Dokoupil in August that the company's products are safe.

"People say Juul is toxic. Is it?" Dokoupil asked.

"The product or the company?" Burns said.

"Interesting that you would ask. The product?" Dokoupil responded.

"We toxicology test all of our products," Burns said.

But last month the FDA warned Juul about misleading claims that vaping is less harmful than smoking.

"We think we have a product that is legal today, is tested for toxicity, and does not present a risk based on the guidelines of the category today to the American public," Burns said.

"But fair to say, if you knew this to be a toxic or dangerous substance, you wouldn't be selling it?" Dokoupil asked.

"I can't imagine we had the data to support that we're selling a product that is damaging to the American public and we had that data that we'd continue to sell that product," Burns said.

It's worth noting there is no evidence that links claims in the lawsuit to the more than 1,600 vaping-related illnesses and 34 deaths reported nationwide. Most of those instances involve vaping with THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, or both THC and nicotine. 

In a statement, Juul told CBS News: "Mr. Breja's claims are baseless. He was terminated in March 2019 because he failed to demonstrate the leadership qualities needed in his role. The allegations concerning safety issues with Juul products are equally meritless, and we already investigated the underlying manufacturing issue and determined the product met all applicable specifications. The company will vigorously defend this lawsuit."

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