Juul said it wasn‘t Big Tobacco. Now it‘s considering money from the maker of Marlboro

Juul has prided itself on its independence from Big Tobacco. It may not be able to much longer.

The e-cigarette maker is in talks to sell a stake of the company to Altria, a person familiar with the matter tells CNBC. Earlier this fall, Juul paused efforts to raise money from private investors because of regulatory uncertainty, people familiar with the matter say. The fundraise would have valued Juul at more than $20 billion, these people said.

The change of course highlights the existential crisis in which Juul finds itself. Its fruity flavors, questionable past marketing and explosive popularity among teenagers have invited critics to compare it to Big Tobacco and the days of the Marlboro Man and Joe Camel.

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