As of November 2019, the states of New York, California, and North Carolina have sued Juul Labs Inc. The lawsuits allege that Juul, the United States’ most popular e-cigarette manufacturer, directly targeted young people through marketing and sales efforts while not doing enough to verify the ages of customers. Illinois, Massachusetts, and several other states are also investigating the company that is largely held responsible for the U.S. vaping epidemic.
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein set precedence for action against Juul when he filed a lawsuit asking the court to limit what flavors the company could sell. The lawsuit, filed on May 15, was the first state lawsuit against the e-cigarette company. Stein questioned why people ages 15 to 17 are more likely to use Juul than the company’s state targeted demographic. The lawsuit specifically noted the company’s fruit and desert-like flavors and the USB-like design.
California’s Juul lawsuit points to poor oversight by the company to vet customers. The lawsuit, filed November 18 by Attorney General Xavier Becerra, alleges that the Juul age verification system lets underage customers easily purchase nicotine products from the company’s online store. The state cited sales data and internal emails from the company, alleging that the company permitted thousands of deliveries to phony names and addresses. Becerra noted 17 shipments to an individual who listed “Beer Can” as a name.
New York became the third state to sue Juul Labs when Attorney General Letitia James announced the lawsuit on November 19. The lawsuit alleges that Juul contributed to the vaping epidemic through its misleading social media tactics. It also alleges that Juul advertised e-cigarettes as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes. The lawsuit requires Juul to stop targeting minors and to pay fines for the alleged offenses. James, the state’s highest-ranking law enforcement officer, said that Juul “basically took a page from Big Tobacco’s playbook.”
Illinois, Massachusetts, and several other states are also investigating Juul on account of rising rates of e-cigarette use among young persons in the United States. In the most recent government survey, one in four high school students reported using e-cigarettes within the last month, despite federal law banning sales to those under 18. Within the past six years, there has been a 900 percent increase in high school students reporting using e-cigarettes and a 400 percent increase among middle school students.
Juul has worked to overhaul its image, putting efforts into branding itself as a product used to help adults stop smoking traditional cigarettes. The company stopped selling most of its e-cigarette flavors following scrutiny that they were aimed at pulling in young users. It has also shut down social media accounts and ended advertisements that are subjects of the lawsuit. The F
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