Juul Labs Inc., the company that makes JUUL electronic cigarettes, will pay $40 million to the State of North Carolina in a landmark, first-of-its-kind settlement. It also pledged to do more to prevent underage use and sales, according to multiple news reports. Attorney General Josh Stein sued Juul Labs in May 2019, making North Carolina the first of several states to initiate legal action against the company.
Juul is accused of leveraging ‘unfair and deceptive practices that targeted young people,’ according to the Associated Press. Juul lawsuits launched by states such as North Carolina, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, as well as hundreds of personal injury, class action, and mass tort claims such as that initiated by Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers, allege that these practices led to a massive increase in youth nicotine addiction. Use of e-cigarettes among teenagers skyrocketed more than 70 per cent following Juul’s launch in 2015.
“Juul sparked and spread a disease – the disease of nicotine addiction,” said Attorney General Stein following the settlement announcement. “They did it to teenagers across North Carolina and this country simply to make money. Today’s court order will go a long way towards ensuring that their e-cigarettes product is not in kids’ hands, its chemical vapor is out of their lungs, and that the nicotine does not poison or addict their brains.”
Following massive backlash and a wave of Juul lawsuits, the company began limiting its advertising and social media activities several years ago. Today, it does not advertise on or use social media to promote its products. It has also pulled most of its popular flavoured pods from the US market – today, menthol is the only remaining option. As a result of these actions, youth vaping is in decline. Roughly 28 per cent of American teens vaped in 2019; today, that number is under 20 per cent.
“This settlement is consistent with our ongoing effort to reset our company and its relationship with our stakeholders, as we continue to combat underage usage and advance the opportunity for harm reduction for adult smokers,” said Juul, in a statement, after the settlement announcement. “We seek to continue to earn trust through action.”
From health experts’ point of view, and from the point of view of the plaintiffs and lawyers in dozens of ongoing Juul lawsuits, the company will have to continue to earn trust. While some experts agree that its product is an effective tool for long-term smokers transitioning away from traditional cigarettes, additional measures like discontinuing menthol-flavoured pods would help further mitigate underage usage.
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