Electronic cigarette maker Juul Labs Inc. will pay $462 million to six states and the District of Columbia, which marks the largest settlement the company has reached so far for its role in the youth vaping surge.
According to The Associated Press, the agreement with New York, California, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and Washington D.C., is the largest in a series of recent agreements Juul has reached to settle lawsuits related to the way it marketed addictive products to children.
Similar to other settlements Juul has reached with lawmakers, this recent one includes limitations on the marketing and distribution of the company’s vaping products. For example, Juul is prohibited from any direct or indirect marketing that targets youth, which includes anyone under the age of 35. Juul will also restrict the number of purchases consumers can make in retail stores as well as online.
A Public Health Crisis
New York Attorney General Letitia James said Juul sparked a public health crisis by putting these addictive vaping products in the hands of minors and making them believe that it doesn’t cause harm. James said Juul is now “paying the price for the harm they caused.”
Juul is claiming that underage use of their products has declined by 95% since 2019 based on the National Youth Tobacco Survey. But several health agencies say the damage has been done. Juul products surged in popularity in the U.S. market five years ago, with youth lured by flavors such as mango, mint, and crème brulee. Juul’s most loyal customers were teens, many of whom became addicted to the company’s high-nicotine pods.
Parents, school administrators, and politicians have blamed the company for an unprecedented surge in underage vaping. They say Juul knew about the danger and addictiveness of its products but tried to cover up that truth because of its desire to maximize profits and corner its market share. In September, Juul agreed to pay about $440 million over a period of six to 10 years to settle a two-year investigation by 33 states into the marketing of its high-nicotine vaping products to youth.
Damage Caused by E-Cigarettes
Electronic cigarettes and vaping devices have quickly become the most common tobacco products used by young people, and this is largely driven by targeted marketing and advertising by these companies. There is significant evidence that adolescent e-cigarette use leads to the use of traditional cigarettes. E-cigarette companies commonly advertise that e-cigarettes contain nicotine, flavoring chemicals, and humectants. However, research studies have also found toxins, ultrafine particles, and carcinogens in e-cigarette solutions and emissions, many of which we know cause adverse health effects.
It is also important to note that most major e-cigarette brands are owned by big tobacco companies, which use similar marketing and advertising strategies to attract youth users as they did with traditional tobacco products. With products like Juul, the design of the devices was such that they could be easily carried and hidden away in a backpack or even pocket, which made them all the more popular with young people. Juul and other companies also recruited social media influencers to market their products on social media platforms such as Instagram, which is used by millions of young people.
While all e-cigarettes surged in popularity, Juul in particular had much to gain. Juul’s popularity is evident in its sales data. In August 2018, Juul sales were 72.1% of the market share of the U.S. cigarette market, compared with 13.6% in the first quarter of 2017. A Juul starter kit can be bought for $49.99, which includes the device, charging dock, and four Juul pods.
Juul states on its website that they don’t sell to youth under 21. But their prior marketing campaigns clearly targeted a youthful demographic with flavors such as cherry, watermelon, and cotton candy that are appealing to youth. In December 2018, Juul sold a 35% stake to the tobacco company Altria, formerly known as Philip Morris, for $13 billion.
E-cigarettes are also sold in multiple venues, from vape shops, grocery stores, and gas stations to the internet. Most sales to underage individuals occur in the retail environment where enforcement of age at purpose rests on the retailer. Internet sales are also a major source of concern because of challenges with regulation and the number of online retailers. A review of online e-cigarette brands shows 433 distinct sites, 12 of which were owned by tobacco companies.
If You Have Been Affected by Juul E-Cigarettes or Similar Products
If you have suffered long-term health effects such as irreversible lung damage, heart problems, reproductive issues, or other problems, it is important that you contact an experienced attorney dealing with product liability claims to obtain more information about pursuing your legal rights. You may be able to seek compensation for your injuries, damages, and losses.