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Juul has all the qualities of a standard Silicon Valley success - fat profit margins, explosive growth, and even the cultural cachet to make its name a verb.

But the three-year-old start-up is not a simple technology company: it sells addictive e-cigarettes.

Its popularity among teens has provoked a backlash from authorities, and the announcement last month that it would join forces with Altria, which makes Marlboro cigarettes, has only ramped up the controversy.