The e-cigarette manufacturer settled a lawsuit with 34 states over a probe into their marketing to teens. But there are more lawsuits coming.
E-cig manufacturer Juul Labs has agreed to pay $438.5 million to 33 states and Puerto Rico to settle numerous lawsuits that claim the company targeted underage people and used false health claims in its advertising for high-nicotine vape pods and cartridges.
This settlement is the latest in a string of lawsuits leveled at the e-cigarette developer over the last several years in Arizona, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Washington.
Claims include that the company marketed its highly addictive products to children via advertisements on Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon, as well as educational websites like basic-mathematics.com, coolmath.com, math-aids.com, mathplayground.com, mathway.com, onlinemathlearning.com, purplemath.com, and socialstudiesforkids.com that are geared toward young teens.
In addition to the fine, Juul has been banned from certain types of advertising, including cartoons, advertising on billboards or public transit, using models under 35 years of age, and restricting advertising to media where at least 85% of the audience is over 35 years of age.
The company denies any wrongdoing and said in a statement that the changes represent “a significant part of our ongoing commitment to resolve issues from the past.”
The company has agreed to pay out the gargantuan settlement over six years, and most states plan to use the funds to combat underage nicotine use.
Nearly 90% of long-term smokers started smoking before their 18th birthday, and teenage nicotine use skyrocketed after Juul’s launch in 2015. A study found that in 2011, less than 5% of high school students had used an e-cigarette — by 2019, that number had grown to nearly 25%. Though the numbers of teen uptake of nicotine have declined, it is still estimated that 1500 teens try a nicotine product for the first time each day in the U.S.
After increased scrutiny and backlash, and a USDA declaration that Juul had created an epidemic of teen smokers, in 2019, the company ceased all advertising and discontinued its fruit and candy flavored products.
This summer, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) enacted a total ban on all Juul products in the United States, alleging that there is “not enough evidence” to show the “potential toxicological risks of using” Juul vapes.
Juul appealed the ruling in court. The FDA temporarily lifted the ban, agreeing to more extensive testing of Juul products before it handed down a final decision.
"We remain focused on our future as we fulfill our mission to transition adult smokers away from cigarettes — the number one cause of preventable death — while combating underage use," a Juul representative said in a statement.