Another state has come forward and sued Juul Labs, Inc. for the company’s deceptive marketing to teens. Law 360 reports that Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul sued the popular e-cigarette company in state court on Thursday, December 12, alleging that Juul’s advertising targeted minors while misleading consumers about the amounts of nicotine in its products. The lawsuit marks the third state attorney general-led case against Juul.
Raoul’s lawsuit said that Juul intentionally appealed to underage consumers through its sleek design that resembles a flash drive. He said that the e-cigarette design makes it easy to conceal and use discreetly. Raoul’s suit also noted that the company offered vaporizer pods in fruity and sweet flavors such as mango, crème brûlée, menthol, and mint that masked the amount of nicotine in the solutions.
The Illinois Juul lawsuit said the company led an aggressive marketing campaign with teenagers as a primary target audience. Raoul said Juul’s advertisements flooded social media with images of both celebrities and media personalities using Juul’s e-cigarette devices. Raoul added that while Juul claims its product is a smoking cessation device, the US Food and Drug Administration has not approved it for that use.
“This lawsuit is part of a comprehensive approach to addressing a public health epidemic, particularly one impacting young people,” Raoul said. “Juul has intentionally targeted minors and, after being criticized for its intentionally youthful marketing, marketed its product as a smoking cessation device without having FDA approval to do so.”
The Illinois Attorney General’s office cites that 27 percent of Illinois 12th graders reported using an electronic cigarette in the last 30 days of 2019. This percentage is almost double the state’s rate of reported adult combustible cigarette smokers. The lawsuit cited the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey that revealed a sharp increase in youth nicotine use. NYTS data revealed that from 2017 to 2018, daily e-cigarette use among high school students increased from 11.7 percent to 20.8 percent. The survey states that 3.05 million American high school students reported using e-cigarettes in 2018.
The attorneys general in New York and California sued Juul in November, with both lawsuits targeting the company’s strategies for youth outreach. In Washington state, two counties and one school district filed class-action lawsuits against Juul Labs and Altria Group, a major shareholder in the company. North Carolina sued Juul in May citing unfair and deceptive practices that put the state’s teenagers at risk of nicotine addiction.
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said that the state’s lawsuit followed an investigation by the attorney general’s office.
“My investigation showed two things,” Stein said. “One, it targeted young people. And two, it misleads the public about the potency of nicotine in its products,” he said. “You only have to walk through any high school parking lot in North Carolina to see how pervasive Juul is among young people in our state.”
In the Illinois state lawsuit, Raoul said that Juul only began targeting adult users once the company faced criticism for its marketing tactics targeting teens. The attorney general is asking for a $50,000 civil penalty for each “deceptive or unfair act or practice” and an additional $50,000 for “each act or practice with the intent to defraud.”
Juul launched its “Make the Switch” campaign in 2018. The campaign features ex-smokers who say they used Juul to quit smoking cigarettes. In a statement, Juul Labs said the company’s customer base is “the world’s 1 billion adult smokers” and that they do not intend to attract teenage users. Company spokesman Austin Finan said they will work cooperatively with officials and regulators to combat underage use.
The case is the People of the State of Illinois v. Juul Labs Inc., case number 2019CH14302, in the circuit of Cook County. The state of Illinois is represented by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Assistant Attorneys General Susan Ellis, Greg Grzeskiewicz, Andrea Law, Monique Anawis, Adrien Fernandez, and Jacob Gilbert.
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