Juul to pay nearly $440 million to settle states’ teen vaping probe
E-cigarette maker Juul Labs will pay nearly $440 million to settle a 33-state investigation into a two-year investigation into the marketing of its high-nicotine vaping products, which have long been blamed for sparking a nationwide surge in youth vaping culprit.
Connecticut Attorney General William Tong announced the deal Tuesday on behalf of the state and Puerto Rico, which joined forces in 2020 to investigate Juul’s early promotions and claim the safety and benefits of its technology as an alternative to smoking.
The settlement resolves one of the biggest legal threats to the struggling company, which still faces nine separate lawsuits from other states. In addition, Juul faces hundreds of individual lawsuits filed on behalf of teens and others who say they are addicted to the company’s vaping products.
According to a statement, the national investigation found that Juul marketed its e-cigarettes to underage teens through parties, product giveaways and advertisements, as well as social media posts using young models.
“Through this settlement, we have received hundreds of millions of dollars to help reduce nicotine use and force Juul to accept a series of strict injunction terms to end teen marketing and crack down on underage sales,” Tong said in a release. .
The $438.5 million will be paid over 6 to 10 years. Tong said at least $16 million from Connecticut will go toward prevention and education efforts. Juul has previously settled lawsuits in Arizona, Louisiana, North Carolina and Washington.
Juul launches fruit and candy flavors
Most of the restrictions imposed by Tuesday’s settlement won’t affect Juul’s practices, which stopped using parties, giveaways and other promotions after it came under scrutiny a few years ago.
After Juul was launched in 2015, teen e-cigarette use skyrocketed, leading the FDA to declare an “epidemic” of underage vaping. Unprecedented growth could turn a generation of young people on nicotine, health experts say.
But Juul has largely retreated since 2019, dropping all U.S. advertising and pulling its fruit and candy flavors from store shelves.
The biggest blow came earlier this summer, when FDA begins banning all Juul e-cigarettes from the market. Juul challenged the ruling in court, and the FDA has since reopened a scientific review of the company’s technology.
The FDA review is part of the regulator’s sweeping review of the multibillion-dollar vaping industry after years of regulatory delays. The agency has authorized some e-cigarettes for adult smokers looking for less harmful alternatives.
While Juul’s early marketing focused on younger urban consumers, the company has since turned to its products as an alternative source of nicotine for older smokers.
“We remain focused on our future as we deliver on our mission to keep adult smokers off cigarettes, the number one cause of preventable death, while combating underage use,” the company said in a statement.
As part of the settlement, Juul has agreed to avoid a range of marketing measures. They include not using cartoons, paying social media influencers, depicting people under the age of 35, advertising on billboards and public transport, and advertising on any channel unless 85% of the audience is adults.
The deal also includes restrictions on where Juul products can be placed in stores, age verification for all sales, and restrictions on online and retail sales.
Juul initially sold high-nicotine pods in flavors like mango, mint and cream. The products became the bane of American high schools, with students vaping in bathrooms and hallways between classes.
But recent federal survey data show that teens have been leaving the company. Most teens now prefer disposable e-cigarettes, some of which continue to be sold in sweet, fruity flavors.
Overall, the survey showed that teen vaping has dropped by nearly 40 percent as many children are forced to study at home during the pandemic. Still, federal officials cautioned against interpreting the results because they were first collected online rather than in classrooms.