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According to allegations raised in a recently filed class action claim against the makers of JUUL vaping products, manufacturers intentionally exploited teens to create a new generation of nicotine-addicted customers.
In a complaint (PDF) filed last month in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, plaintiff John Scott Emidy seeks to pursue damages against Juul Labs, Inc. Altria Group, and Philip Morris USA Inc. as defendants.
While teen vaping problems were bad before, the lawsuit notes that issues could become worse now that Philip Morris and it’s parent company, Altria Group, hold a 35% stake in JUUL Labs.
“Now that JUUL has Altria’s infrastructure, progress in nicotine cessation stands to erode,” the lawsuit states. “Defendants use fraudulent and deceptive youth marketing business practices. They exploit themes that resonate with teenagers while falsely denying doing so.”
Emidy, of Tennessee, indicates he is one of those who has fallen prey to JUUL’s tactics. The 25 year old says he is now addicted to nicotine in JUUL, claiming the manufacturer emulated tactics known to have been used by the tobacco industry for years to entice underage customers.
JUUL Teen Addiction Concerns
Recent FDA data indicates teen e-cigarette use has reached epidemic levels in the United States, and JUUL Labs has been accused of fueling the growing teen nicotine addiction problems in the United States, through the design and marketing of their vape pen.
JUUL was intentionally designed to look like a USB thumb drive, which has made the product popular among teems who are able to hide their vaping habit from parents, teachers and other adults.
The manufacturer also marketed and sold JUUL in various candy-like flavors, which has resulted in a large number of teens and prior non-smokers starting to vape, and developing addictions to the high levels of nicotine contained in the pods.
A recent study found that e-cigarette advertising reaches 80% of middle and high school students in the U.S. Another study warns that vaping during adolescence quadruples a teen’s risk of becoming a cigarette tobacco smoker later.
On September 9, the FDA issued a warning letter to JUUL, indicating there was evidence it told school-aged children that its products were safer than cigarettes, which has not been proven.
In addition, federal and state health experts are investigating whether JUUL and other e-cigarettes are linked to hundreds of cases of respiratory illness, including at least 18 deaths, as well as investigating whether JUUL is linked to nearly 130 cases of e-cigarette-related seizures.
Following a recent federal survey that indicated a quarter of high school students vaped within the last 30 days, there has been rising concerns about the actions of JUUL Labs, which now faces a criminal probe over claims that it illegally marketed to children. In the wake of the problems, JUUL has suspended all advertising in the United States, and it’s CEO resigned.
Last month a panel of judges announced that JUUL claims pending throughout the federal court system will all be consolidated before Judge William H. Orrick III in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, which is where JUUL Labs, Inc.’s San Francisco headquarters are located, and where five of the earliest complaints were filed.
As part of the consolidation into a MDL, all pretrial proceedings will be handled by Judge Orrick, but the cases will remain individual lawsuits. If settlements for JUUL nicotine addictions or another resolution is not reached during the pretrial proceedings, each case may eventually be transferred back to their originating districts for trial in the future.