Juul has agreed to pay North Carolina $ 40 million to resolve the first of a series of lawsuits from states alleging the company’s marketing practices fueled widespread addiction among young people to its nicotine-rich e-cigarettes .
The settlement was announced on Monday by North Carolina attorney general Josh Stein, who sued the company in May 2019. In the agreement, the company denies any wrongdoing or liability.
The consent decree requires Juul to only sell its products behind the counter in North Carolina stores and to use third-party age verification systems for online sales. The order also obliges Juul to send young “mystery shoppers” to 1,000 stores each year to see if they are selling to minors.
It also prohibits the company from using models under the age of 35 in advertising and states that no advertisements should be posted near schools.
“Juul targeted young people, including teenagers, with highly addictive e-cigarettes for years,” Stein said in a statement. “It lit the spark and kindled the flames of a steamy epidemic among our children – one that can be seen in any high school in North Carolina.”
In a statement, Joshua Raffel, a Juul spokesperson, said, “This settlement is in line with our ongoing efforts to reshape our company and its relationship with our stakeholders as we continue to combat underage consumption and harm reduction opportunities for adults Promote smokers. “.”
The North Carolina lawsuit accused Juul of designing, marketing and selling e-cigarettes to attract young people and misrepresenting the strength and danger of nicotine in the company’s products, which went against state law on unfair and misleading trade practices violates.
Thirteen states, including California, Massachusetts, and New York, as well as the District of Columbia have filed similar lawsuits. The central claim in either case is that Juul knew, or should have known, that it was teenagers on high nicotine pods. Some of the teenagers in the cases alleged serious harm, including possible lung damage and mood disorders.
E-cigarettes and other vape products were originally designed as a harm-reduced alternative to flammable cigarettes, which are linked to the deaths of approximately 480,000 people each year in the United States. But Juul, which featured young, hip-looking people in its first few ads, posters, and social media, quickly caught on with teenagers and young adults who had never smoked. While nicotine isn’t fatal, some research shows that it can affect the developing brain.
A group of 39 attorneys general has spent the past 16 months investigating Juul for his marketing and sales practices, as has the Food and Drug Administration.
Juul also faces other legal threats. The Federal Trade Commission is suing Juul, Altria and related parties for breaking the 2018 deal that earned Altria 35 percent of Juul. Altria, the country’s largest tobacco company, paid $ 12.8 billion for this stake, but has since written off the value of the investment to $ 1.5 billion.
The commission says the two companies have reached a number of agreements, including Altria’s investment, which eliminates competition in violation of federal antitrust laws. The FTC also claims that Altria and Juul started out as competitors in the e-cigarette markets, but as Juul became more popular, Altria countered the threat by getting its own Mark Ten e-cigarette in exchange for a share of Juuls. took profits from the market. Both Altria and Juul have denied the allegations.
There are also inter-district litigation in the US District Court for the Northern District of California. This litigation consolidates cases at three levels: personal injury, including plaintiffs filing addiction lawsuits, lung injuries, and other health issues; a consumer class action lawsuit alleging that individuals paid too much for a product they were addicted to; and a government agency consisting of school districts and counties seeking financial compensation for damage related to vaping. Juul investors such as Altria and other companies are also involved. The filings have started and the first case is slated to go to trial in February 2022.
Beyond all legal challenges, the company is waiting for a decision by the FDA as to whether its products can remain on the market. The authority has to decide by the beginning of September whether Juul and other new tobacco and steam products are “suitable for the protection of public health” and can be resold.