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Tobacco

3 States Sue Major E-Cig Maker

Attorneys general focus allegations on Juul’s marketing efforts
Photograph: Shutterstock

CHICAGO — Leading law enforcement officials in California, New York and North Carolina have filed lawsuits against e-cigarette maker Juul Labs for allegedly targeting young people in its efforts to market its products, according to state officials.

New York and California filed their cases in November, while North Carolina officials filed their lawsuit in May.

New York Attorney General Letitia James said its lawsuit against San Francisco-based Juul alleges “deceptive and misleading marketing of its e-cigarettes, which contributed to the ongoing youth vaping epidemic in New York State.”

Filed Nov. 19 in New York County Supreme Court, the lawsuit alleges Juul followed major tobacco companies marketing and advertising practices, illegally sold products to minors via its website and third-party retail stores and misled consumers by failing to warn them about its products containing nicotine, officials said.

“There can be no doubt that Juul’s aggressive advertising has significantly contributed to the public health crisis that has left youth in New York and across the country addicted to its products,” James said. “By glamorizing vaping while at the same time downplaying the nicotine found in vaping products, Juul is putting countless New Yorkers at risk. I am prepared to use every legal tool in our arsenal to protect the health and safety of our youth.”

“While we have not yet reviewed the [New York] complaint, we remain focused on resetting the vapor category in the U.S. and earning the trust of society by working cooperatively with attorneys general, regulators, public health officials and other stakeholders to combat underage use and convert adult smokers from combustible cigarettes," a Juul spokesperson told CSPDaily News. “As part of that process, we recently stopped accepting orders for our mint [pods] in the U.S., suspended all broadcast, print and digital product advertising in the U.S., and are investing in scientific research to ensure the quality of our FDA premarket tobacco product application (PMTA) and expanding our commitment to develop new technology to reduce youth use. Our customer base is the world’s 1 billion adult smokers, and we do not intend to attract underage users.”

Regarding the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Juul spokesperson referred to the agency’s new-product review process, in which all vaping devices must participate once the deadline for submitting applications arrives in May 2020. Juul also has taken steps in recent months to address the public controversy, pulling Juul-branded flavored vaping pods from shelves and online and introducing to the retail community an age-verification solution for in-store point-of-sale registers.

The litigation coincides with multiple bans or restrictions at the federal, state and local levels tied to vaping devices and flavored nicotine and tobacco products in general.

Just the day before New York’s actions, California filed its lawsuit, with Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey alleging that Juul targeted young people with its advertising and failed to warn consumers of the product’s health risks.

“We’ve worked too hard, committed our hard-earned money for too long combating harmful tobacco use to stand idly by as we now lose Californians to vaping and nicotine addiction,” Becerra said. “We will hold Juul and any other company that fuels a public health crisis accountable.”

In North Carolina, Attorney General Josh Stein filed a lawsuit in May against Juul for “designing, marketing and selling its e-cigarettes to attract young people and for misrepresenting the potency and danger of nicotine in its products.”

The alleged actions violate North Carolina’s Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, officials said.

“Juul targeted young people as customers. As a result, vaping has become an epidemic among minors,” Stein said. “Juul’s business practices are not only reckless, they’re illegal. And I intend to put a stop to them. We cannot allow another generation of young people to become addicted to nicotine.”

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