Most Influential People2019

Adam Bowen and James Monsees

By Tom Miller
Adam Bowen and James Monsees, Founders of Juul
Winni Wintermeyer—Redux

Stanford grad students Adam Bowen and James Monsees were on a smoke break in 2004 when they lit on a thesis idea: a way to deliver nicotine in a less harmful, less stigmatized way than cigarettes.

Their brainstorm would become Juul, a device so satisfying and stylish that it has dominated the vaping market, giving millions of smokers a tool that could help them quit. Juul also became too cool for its own good, tempting teens and sparking a panic among parents and policymakers.

We should do everything possible to dissuade kids from using e-cigarettes, as we have successfully done with combustible cigarettes. But we should not overreact, either. Limiting adult access to a harm-reducing tool when 480,000 Americans die every year from smoking would be a public-health disaster.

Bowen and Monsees want to “erase combustible cigarettes from the face of the earth.” Marlboro owner Altria, which knows smokers better than anyone, made a $12.8 billion bet on that mission last year. Big Tobacco must see a massive switch coming.

Miller, the attorney general of Iowa, helped lead the landmark multi­state settlement with the tobacco industry in 1998