Illinois County Files Suit Against Juul

State’s attorney alleges marketing to minors
Photograph: Shutterstock

WAUKEGAN, Ill. — The Lake County State’s Attorney in Illinois filed a lawsuit against e-cigarette maker Juul Labs for allegedly misrepresenting the product with regard to nicotine content and its effects, as well as for allegedly marketing to minors, according to court documents.

In the 71-page lawsuit filed Aug. 13, Michael Nerheim, state’s attorney for Lake County, Ill., outlined multiple cases of San Francisco-based Juul allegedly minimizing the effects of nicotine and the constituents within the product in its communications to the public, as well as engaging in marketing strategies aimed at minors, court documents said.

"Just like cigarette companies did in the past, Juul preyed on teens by using advertisements that glamorized their product in order to get kids hooked on nicotine,” Nerheim said. “It will take years of education and money to right the wrongs and cover the damages caused by Juul’s marketing campaigns. To that end, the company should be held accountable for the massive expected cost to undo the damage they created.”

The lawsuit seeks damages starting at $50,000 for violating local laws, but that amount could rise considerably if the court applies that amount to each of the multiple elements in the suit, as the state’s attorney suggested.

“Juul Labs exists to help adult smokers switch from combustible cigarettes. We have never marketed to youth and do not want non-nicotine users, especially youth, to ever try our product," a Juul spokesperson said in a statement sent to CSP Daily News. "Our earliest marketing campaign was intended for adults in the [25- to 34-year-old] demographic and lasted for six months in 2015. If one views the sales and revenue data, there is no evidence that it drove use, youth or otherwise. Our current marketing efforts feature adult smokers who offer their personal experiences about switching to Juul products—all conveyed in a style, tone and message that is a direct appeal to current adult smokers. We have exited Instagram and Facebook and work constantly to remove inappropriate social-media content generated by others.”

Last fall, Juul pulled four flavored vaping pods from retail shelves in response to communications with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which expressed concerns about recent increases in e-cigarette use by young people.

Later in December, Richmond, Va.-based Altria Group Inc. purchased a 35% interest in Juul for $12.8 billion. At the time, Juul was valued at $38 billion.

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