Juul has agreed to pay nearly half a billion dollars as part of a settlement with 34 states over how it marketed its vaping products, targeting teenagers. According to an ABC news report, the $438.5 million agreement with Juul Labs resolves a two-year probe into the e-cigarette maker’s marketing and sales practices.
The investigation also found that Juul misrepresented its product as a smoking cessation device without the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval to make such claims.
Increase in E-Cigarette Use Among Youth
While traditional cigarettes have plummeted among youth, vaping or electronic cigarettes have been skyrocketing. Anti-tobacco advocates have criticized this trend for undoing their progress over several decades in fighting youth tobacco use.
According to a 2019 survey conducted by the FDA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 5 million youth reported using e-cigarettes within the past 30 days – up from 3.6 million just one year prior.
Earlier this year, the FDA announced removing Juul products from the US market. However, the company won a temporary reprieve to carry on with sales while FDA decided whether or not Juul devices should be approved as smoking cessation products.
State attorney generals who took action against Juul talked about how the company ramped up its market share by “willfully engaging in an advertising campaign that appealed to youth” even though the e-cigarettes it makes are illegal for them to purchase and are unhealthy for youth to use.
Relentless, Misleading Marketing
The investigation found that Juul was relentlessly marketing its products to underage users with launch parties, commercials using celebrities and influencers, and free samples. The probe also showed that Juul’s original packaging was misleading because it did not disclose that it contained nicotine and implied that it contained a lower concentration of nicotine than it actually did.
Juul’s ads also falsely led consumers to believe that smoking one Juul pod was the equivalent of smoking one pack of combustible cigarettes.
In addition to ads on social media sites, Juul also paid a company to place digital promotions across websites, not sparing educational websites such as basic-mathematics.com and coolmath.com. They targeted sites catering to young girls, such as dailydressupgames.com and girlgames.com.
Juul targeted sites geared to high school students looking at colleges such as collegeconfidential.com and those aimed at much younger children such as hellokids.com and allfreekidscrafts.com.
In June, a federal judge allowed adult and juvenile buyers of Juul products to bring their claims in class actions accusing the company of misleading marketing. A California judge certified four classes – adults, minors, nationwide, and in California – rejecting Juul’s argument that the potential class members were too different from one another to litigate their claims together.
Juul Class Action and Multi-District Litigation (MLD)
The class action claims do not allege personal injury but seek to recover money spent on Juul products and are part of multi-district litigation that includes individual personal injury claims and lawsuits by local governments and school districts that have accused Juul of fueling “an epidemic of youth addiction.”
The economic loss claims allege that Juul downplayed its products’ addictiveness and that consumers would not have bought them or would have paid less for them but for the misleading marketing.
A class action is one large lawsuit in which a group of designated class representatives brings suit on behalf of many similarly affected others. However, sometimes, class actions are not usually an effective way to handle cases where a number of people have been harmed in significant ways, even if that harm was caused by the use of the same dangerous or defective product.
This is why many cases alleging health issues caused by Juul are making their way through state courts or in federal multi-district litigation or MDL, consolidating multiple cases into a single federal district and one judge.
In this process, the judge will choose a few representative cases for “bellwether trials,” which will give all parties an idea of what to expect if their own cases go to trial. If no settlement agreements are reached, each case returns to its respective home court, and the litigation proceeds individually.
A number of lawsuits in the MDL focus on recovering damages for the health problems linked to Juul use, such as lung damage, nicotine poisoning, and heart problems. The class action lawsuits focus on legal issues such as false advertising, deceptive labeling, and illegal marketing.
Suppose you are considering filing a class action lawsuit or a personal injury lawsuit relating to dangerous and/or defective products such as Juul. In that case, it is important to contact an experienced lawyer who can guide you in the right direction.