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Juul’s Convenient Smoke Screen – The New York Times

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Juul Labs, the company behind the insanely popular vaping device, has a message for the nation’s estimated 37.8 million adult smokers:

It really, really, really cares about them. And it wants them (and only them — got that, teens?) to try vaping instead.

“For smokers. By design,” blares the company’s website. A new $10 million TV ad campaign, called “Make the Switch,” echoes that theme, featuring testimonials from ex-smokers, all comfortably above the legal smoking age, who have swapped their cigarettes for a Juul.

This benevolent-sounding mission — helping nicotine-addicted adult smokers switch to something far less likely to kill them — is Juul’s new pitch, and the way it hopes to rehabilitate its image as one of Silicon Valley’s most problematic start-ups.

You can’t fault Juul for trying. The company, which is valued at $38 billion, has been through the wringer lately, with regulators, public health advocates and concerned parents accusing it of fueling an epidemic of teenage nicotine addiction by marketing to young people with fruit-flavored pods, colorful youth-filled ads and social media campaigns. It has been sued by users and lambasted by lawmakers, and the Food and Drug Administration, which is investigating whether Juul’s marketing practices deliberately targeted underage users, conducted a surprise inspection of the company’s headquarters last year. (In November, Juul announced it would shut down its Instagram and Facebook accounts, and stop selling most flavored pods in stores.)

Adding to the concern is that last month, Juul took a $12.8 billion investment from Altria, the tobacco giant behind Marlboro and other popular brands, in exchange for 35 percent of the company.

Now, after making billions of dollars and joining forces with Big Tobacco, Juul is billing itself as a public-health crusader.

Juul is far from the first company to attempt a humanitarian makeover. Facebook, an outgrowth of a Harvard student’s juvenile attempt to quantify the attractiveness of his classmates, now claims to have been motivated by a virtuous impulse to connect the world; Uber, created by two tech entrepreneurs who wanted to zoom around San Francisco in luxury cars, later tried to convince people that it wanted to provide affordable mobility to the masses.

But in Juul’s case, revisionist history is particularly important, because the way Juul markets itself is central to the question of how it should be treated. Many consumers, investors and ethical technologists would rightly shun a company that knowingly targeted minors with harmful products, and cleaned up its act only after public pressure. But if you believe that Juul had a noble anti-cigarette mission all along, it’s easier to excuse its missteps as the product of innocent naïveté.

Unfortunately for Juul, plenty of evidence suggests that the company didn’t always take its public health agenda so seriously.

In 2015, in an interview with The Verge, Ari Atkins, a research and development engineer who helped create the original Juul, said that “we don’t think a lot about addiction here because we’re not trying to design a cessation product at all.”

He added that “anything about health is not on our mind.”

In other early interviews, James Monsees, Juul’s co-founder and chief product officer, played down the idea of a public health mission.

“We’re not an activist company,” he said in a 2014 interview. “If you don’t like what we’re making better than cigarettes, then have a cigarette, that’s fine.”

In an interview the next year, Mr. Monsees called Juul’s predecessor, a tobacco vaporizer known as Pax, “the dystopian future of tobacco,” and said the company’s vaporizing technology might someday find a market beyond cigarette smokers.

In a statement this week, Mr. Monsees said the company had been forced to be careful about its marketing. Under federal regulations, the company is allowed to bill its device as a “switching product” for smokers, but not as a smoking cessation tool or a health device. He said that while Juul “initiated campaigns in the past that we would not do today,” it was always focused on eliminating cigarettes.

“Since 2005, we have been focused on creating a product to help people switch away from smoking combustible cigarettes — the number one cause of preventable death in the world,” Mr. Monsees said. “That focus has been clear in the key milestone moments in the creation of the company — it is what we said in our 2005 Stanford graduation thesis and our first fund-raising letter in 2007.”

Juul’s founders did, in fact, talk about improving health as a motivating factor early in the company’s existence. In a 2007 email sent to potential investors, Adam Bowen, Juul’s other co-founder, mentioned wanting to “offer a new alternative for health-conscious smokers.” The pair’s graduate thesis presentation, delivered while they were studying at Stanford in 2005, pitches vaping as a healthier substitute for cigarettes.

But Juul’s public marketing told a different story. Few of the company’s early ads made any mention of cigarettes’ risks, or advocated for smokers to switch; most were focused on playing up vaping’s cool factor. As recently as 2017, the front page of the company’s website said nothing about switching from cigarettes at all, only that the Juul offered an “intensely satisfying vapor experience.”

Recently, Juul — now equipped with an army of lobbyists and a slick communications team that includes a former White House spokesman — has studiously revamped its image. Glossy profiles have been written about the company’s “lifesaving mission” and Juul’s new chief executive, Kevin Burns, has gotten on message, emphasizing the company’s focus on adult smokers.

This abrupt about-face has drawn skepticism from critics. Matthew L. Myers, the president of the antismoking advocacy group Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, characterized Juul’s new ad campaign as little more than a P.R. effort aimed at lawmakers and regulators.

“Juul has engaged in all the traditional tactics of a company that is trying to fend off meaningful regulation, rather than actually change their behavior,” Mr. Myers said. “That is classic Big Tobacco.”

For all the hand-wringing, no one is suggesting that Juul’s nicotine pods are less healthy than cigarettes, or that the company should stop marketing itself as a smoking alternative. There’s every reason to believe that vaping is significantly less harmful than smoking, and many adult smokers have in fact used Juul’s products to help them quit.

But motives matter. And Juul’s shifty self-presentation suggests that the company may not be acting entirely on the level.

Juul wants you to believe that it became a teenage sensation entirely by accident, that its products were only ever meant for adult smokers and that taking billions of dollars from Big Tobacco is consistent with the values of a company that has always put a priority on health over profits.

The truth is much hazier than that.

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The 3 Best Canadian Tech Stocks I Would Buy With $3,000 for 2021

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The majority of the Canadian tech stocks went through the roof in 2020 and delivered outsized returns. However, tech stocks witnessed sharp selling in the past 10 days, reflecting valuation concerns and expected normalization in demand. 

As these high-growth tech stocks shed some of their gains, I believe it’s time to accumulate them at current price levels to outperform the broader markets by a significant margin in 2021. Let’s dive into three tech stocks that have witnessed a pullback and are looking attractive bets. 

Lightspeed POS

Lightspeed POS (TSX:LSPD)(NYSE:LSPD) stock witnessed strong selling and is down about 33% in the last 10 days. I believe the selloff in Lightspeed presents an excellent opportunity for investors to invest in a high-growth and fundamentally strong company. 

Lightspeed witnessed an acceleration in demand for its digital products and services amid the pandemic. However, with the easing of lockdown measures and economic reopening, the demand for its products and services could normalize. Further, it faces tough year-over-year comparisons. 

Despite the normalization in demand, I believe the ongoing shift toward the omnichannel payment platform could continue to drive Lightspeed’s revenues and customer base. Besides, its accretive acquisitions, growing scale, and geographic expansion are likely to accelerate its growth and support the uptrend in its stock. Lightspeed stock is also expected to benefit from its growing average revenue per user, innovation, and up-selling initiatives.     

Shopify 

Like Lightspeed, Shopify (TSX:SHOP)(NYSE:SHOP) stock has also witnessed increased selling and has corrected by about 22% in the past 10 days. Notably, during the most recent quarter, Shopify said that it expects the vaccination and reopening of the economy to drive some of the consumer spending back to offline retail and services. Further, Shopify expects the pace of shift toward the e-commerce platform to return to the normal levels in 2021, which accelerated in 2020.

Despite the normalization in the pace of growth, a strong secular shift towards online commerce could continue to bring ample growth opportunities for Shopify, and the recent correction in its stock can be seen as a good buying opportunity. 

Shopify’s initiatives to ramp up its fulfillment network, international expansion and growing adoption of its payment platform are likely to drive strong growth in revenues and GMVs. Moreover, its strong new sales and marketing channels bode well for future growth. I remain upbeat on Shopify’s growth prospects and expect the company to continue to multiply investors’ wealth with each passing year. 

Docebo 

Docebo (TSX:DCBO)(NASDAQ:DCBO) stock is down about 21% in the last 10 days despite sustained momentum in its base business. The enterprise learning platform provider’s key performance metrics remain strong, implying that investors should capitalize on its low stock price and start accumulating its stock at the current levels. 

Docebo’s annual recurring revenue or ARR (a measure of future revenues) continues to grow at a brisk pace. Its ARR is expected to mark 55-57% growth in Q4. Meanwhile, its top line could increase by 48-52% during the same period. The company’s average contract value is growing at a healthy rate and is likely to increase by 22-24% during Q4. 

With the continued expansion of its customer base, geographical expansion, innovation, and opportunistic acquisitions, Docebo could deliver strong returns in 2021 and beyond.

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Manitoba to invest $6.5 million in new systems

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WINNIPEG – The province of Manitoba is investing $6.5 million over three years to replace technical systems used in healthcare facilities, including replacing current voice dictation and transcription services with more modern systems and upgrading the Provincial Health Contact Centre (PHCC)’s triage, call-recording and telephone systems, Health and Seniors Care Minister Heather Stefanson (pictured) announced.

“Our government is investing in the proper maintenance of information and communications technology to ensure digital health information can be safely stored and shared as needed,” said Stefanson. “These systems will ensure healthcare facilities can continue to provide high-quality services and allow Manitobans to get faster access to healthcare resources and information.”

Dictation, transcription and voice-recognition services are used by healthcare providers to write reports. There are currently approximately 80 healthcare sites across Manitoba using some combination of dictation, transcription and voice-recognition services. Many of these systems are nearing the end of their usable lifespans.

“Across our health system, radiologists and nuclear medicine physicians use voice-dictation services to help create diagnostic reports when reading imaging studies like ultrasound, nuclear medicine studies, X-rays, angiography, MRI and CT scans,” said Dr. Marco Essig, provincial specialty lead, diagnostic imaging, Shared Health. “Enhanced dictation and voice-recognition services will enable us to work more efficiently and provide healthcare providers with quicker access to these reports that support the diagnoses and treatment of Manitobans every day.”

The project will replace telephone-based dictation and transcription with voice-recognition functions, upgrade voice-recognition services for diagnostic imaging and enhance voice-recognition tools for mobile devices.

“Investing in more modern voice-transcription services will help our health-care workers do the administrative part of their jobs more quickly and effectively so they can get back to the most important part of their work – providing top-level healthcare and protecting Manitobans,” said Stefanson. “The transition to the new system will be made seamlessly so that services disruptions, which can lead to patient care safety risks, will not occur.”

The new systems will be compatible with other existing systems, will decrease turnaround times to improve patient care and will be standardized across the province to reduce ongoing costs and allow regional facilities to share resources as needed, Stefanson added.

The PHCC is a one-stop shop for incoming and outgoing citizen contact and supports programs such as Health Links–Info Santé, TeleCARE TeleSOINS and After-Hours Physician Access, as well as after-hours support services to public health, medical officers of health, home care and Manitoba Families.

The current vendor that supplies communications support to the PHCC is no longer providing service, making it an opportune time to invest in an upgraded system that will provide better service to Manitobans, the minister said, adding the project will provide the required systems and network infrastructure to continue providing essential services now and for the near future.

“The PHCC makes more than 650,000 customer service calls to Manitobans per year to a broad spectrum of clients with varied health issues. This reduces the need for people to visit a physician, urgent care or emergency departments,” said Stefanson. “The upgrade will also allow Manitobans in many communities to continue accessing the support they need from their home or local health centre, reducing the need for unnecessary travel.”

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Telus and UHN deliver services to the marginalized

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Telus’s Health for Good program has launched the latest of its specially equipped vans to provide medical services to the homeless and underserved, this time to the population of Toronto’s west end. The project relies not only on the hardware and software – the vans and technology – but on the care delivered by trained and socially sensitive medical professionals.

For the Toronto project, those professionals are working at the University Health Network’s Social Medicine program and the Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre. The city’s Parkdale community, in the west end, has a high concentration of homeless and marginalized people.

First launched in 2014, Telus’s Health for Good program has delivered mobile clinics to 13 Canadian cities, from Victoria to Halifax. Originally designed to deliver primary care, the program pivoted to meet the needs of patients in the COVID-19 pandemic, said Nimtaz Kanji, Calgary-based director of Telus Social Purpose Programs.

Angela Robertson of the Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre (CHC) asserted that marginalized people are particularly susceptible to the spread of COVID-19, as they don’t have access to the basic precautions that prevent its spread.

The clinic is located near a Pizza Pizza franchise; homeless people shelter under its overhang on the weekends, she said. Some have encampments under nearby bridges.

“The public health guidelines and requirements call for things that individuals who are homeless don’t have,” Robertson said. “If the response calls for isolation, that suggests people have places to isolate in.”

And in the shelter system, pre-COVID, the environment was very congregate, with many people in the same physical space, said Robertson. Some homeless persons, in order to keep themselves safe, have created encampments, and the city has opened up some hotel rooms across the city to create spaces for physical distancing.

Even proper hand-washing and hygiene becomes a challenge for the homeless.

“COVID calls for individuals to practice constant hand-washing. Oftentimes, individuals who are homeless use public washroom facilities that may be in restaurants or coffee shops, and many of those spaces are now closed. So there are limitations to accessing those facilities. It’s not like they’re in a community where there are public hand-washing facilities for people who are homeless.”

The mobile health clinic allows the CHC to take “pop-up testing” into communities where there is high positivity and where additional COVID testing is needed. The CHC can take testing into congregate sites and congregate housing to provide more testing, Robertson said.

“The other piece that we will use the van to do is, when the vaccine supply gets back online, and when the health system gets to doing community vaccinations … we hope that we can be part of that effort.”

COVID has contributed to a spike in cases of Toronto’s other pandemic: opioid overdoses. Some community members are reluctant to seek care because of the stigma attached to substance abuse; and COVID has a one-two punch for users.

The first rule of substance abuse is, don’t use alone; always be with someone who can respond to a potential overdose, ideally someone who can administer Nalaxone to reverse the effects of the overdose, Robertson said. “It’s substance abuse 101,” and the need for social distancing makes this impossible.

Secondly, COVID has affected the supply chain of street drugs. As a result, they’re being mixed increasingly with “toxic” impurities like Fentanyl that can be deadly.

The van itself is a Mercedes Sprinter, modified by architectural firm éKM architecture et aménagement and builder Zone Technologie, both based in Montréal. According to Car and Driver magazine, the Sprinter line – with 21 cargo models and 10 passenger versions – is “considered by many to be the king of cargo and passenger vans.”

Kanji said the platform was chosen for its reputation for reliability and robustness.

While the configuration is customized for each mobile clinic, it generally consists of two sections: A practitioner’s workstation and a more spacious and private examination room, so patients can receive treatment with privacy and dignity, Kanji said. The Parkdale clinic is 92 square feet.

“While the layouts vary across regions, they typically include an examination table and health practitioners’ workstation, including equipment necessary to provide primary healthcare,” the Telus vice-president of provider solutions wrote in an e-mail interview. The Parkdale Queen West mobile clinic is designed for primary medical services, including wound care, mobile COVID-19 testing and vaccination efforts, harm reduction services, mental healthcare and counseling.

The clinic equipped with an electronic medical record (EMR) from TELUS Health and TELUS LTE Wi-Fi network technology.

Practitioners will be able to collect and store patient data, examine a patient’s results over time, and provide better continuity of care to those marginalized citizens who often would have had undocumented medical histories.

The EMR system is Telus Health’s PS Suite (formerly Practice Solutions). It is an easy-to-use, customizable solution for general and specialty practices that captures, organizes, and displays patient information in a user-friendly way. The solution allows for the electronic management of patient charts and scheduling, receipt of labs and hospital reports directly into the EMR, and personalization of workflows with customizable templates, toolbars, and encounter assistants.

But like others tested for COVID, it’s a 24-48 hour wait for results. Pop-up or not, how does the mobile team get results to patients who have no fixed address?

The CHC set up a centre for testing in a tent at the Waterfront Community Centre. Swabs are sent to the lab. “We are responsible for connecting back with community members and their results,” Robertson said.

“This is the value of having Parkdale Queen West being in front of the testing, because many of the community members who are homeless we know through our other services, and there is some trust in folks either coming to us to make arrangements to collect their results, or we know where they are.”

This is a key element of the program, said Kanji – leveraging community trust. In Vancouver downtown east side, for example, where there is a high concentration of marginalized members of the indigenous community, nurse practitioners are accompanied by native elders in a partnership with the Kilala Lelum Health Centre.

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