Jonnie Williams' Next Idea? 

Central figure of the McDonnell trial reportedly has a new business plan for nicotine derivative.

click to enlarge Former Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams leaves the federal courthouse last summer after testifying in the corruption trial of former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen McDonnell. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Former Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams leaves the federal courthouse last summer after testifying in the corruption trial of former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen McDonnell.

Is business huckster Jonnie R. Williams Sr. trying to cash in on the e-cigarette, “vaping” craze?

It could be, according to The Washington Post. In a lengthy story today about convicted former Gov. Robert F. McDonnell due for sentencing Tuesday, the Post reports that two people who know Williams say he is exploring a new business venture -– “anatabine-filled e-cigarettes.”

Few other details are available but it many ways, it makes perfect sense. Williams, the glib-talking former head of Star Scientific and self-taught scientist, has for years tried to come up with products that tap the good aspects of nicotine without the bad.

On was CigRx, a smoking cessation treatment, and Antabaloc, the dietary supplement and anti-inflammatory that got McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, in so much trouble.

Williams, who was the star witness for the prosecution in the six-week-long corruption trial of the McDonnell last summer, has since left Star Scientific, the firm he founded that made Antabaloc and CigRx, and is living in Florida, the Post reports. Williams gave the McDonnells more than $177,000 in loans and gifts in exchange for help pushing his products.

Rock Creek Pharmaceuticals, which assumed the name of Star Scientific last year, pulled both CigRx and Antabaloc off the shelves in deference to complaints by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They are no longer sold.

Anatabine is derived from nicotine and was a key ingredient in Anatabloc. In electronic cigarettes, which are “vaped” with water, nicotine is absorbed in the body in water vapor and provides a “kick” and pleasing feeling that one gets smoking a traditional tobacco cigarette. One difference is that an e-cigarette has none of the carcinogenic tar and other products that are harmful to health.

Since anatabine is similar to nicotine, one imagines it could be used as a substitute. Williams is no stranger to tobacco. His relatives worked for a larger tobacco company and Williams at one time ran an operation that made discount cigarettes and Swisher Sweet cigars. He is a strong believer that nicotine as enormous potential as a healing substance.

The market for e-cigarettes, meanwhile has expanded tremendously in recent years. Proponents believe vaping offers the good aspects of smoking tobacco with few of the bad while critics question the safety of having pure nicotine in small e-cig containers.


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