Juul Pod Marketing to Teens Is Target Of North Carolina Lawsuit
The North Carolina Attorney General’s Office has filed a lawsuit against JUUL Lab, alleging that the manufacturer of the popular electronic cigarette products intentionally marketed Juul Pods to teens, causing widespread problems with vaping addictions among minors in the state.
In a press release issued May 15, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein announced that a complaint (PDF) was filed by the state in the Superior Court of Durham County, which claims JUUL sought to attract children to its products and intentionally misrepresented the risks linked to the nicotine it uses.
“JUUL targeted young people as customers. As a result, vaping has become an epidemic among minors,” Stein said in the press release. “JUUL’s business practices are not only reckless, they’re illegal. And I intend to put a stop to them. We cannot allow another generation of young people to become addicted to nicotine.”
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The lawsuit indicates that JUUL Labs designed, marketed and sold e-cigarettes in a way that attracts minors, and that its marketing practices downplaying the risks of nicotine are unfair, deceptive and illegal under the laws of North Carolina.
It is the first state to bring a lawsuit against the company over the teen vaping epidemic, which many critics lay at JUUL’s feet. According to the allegations, nearly 17% of all North Carolina high school students reported using an electronic cigarette within the last 30 days.
Teen Vaping Concerns
E-cigarettes have become the most popular form of tobacco use among teens, with recent FDA data indicating teen vaping has reached epidemic proportions.
A recent study indicated that e-cigarette advertising reaches 80% of middle and high school students in the U.S. Furthermore, vaping during adolescence quadruples a teen’s risk of becoming a cigarette tobacco smoker later.
JUUL vape pens have quickly grown to dominate the electronic cigarette market. In addition to the sale of candy-like flavors, the devices are designed to look like USB thumb drives, allowing teens to hide their vaping habit from parents, teachers and other adults.
In February, the American Lung Association gave the FDA a failing grade for not doing enough to prevent teens from using and buying e-cigarettes. Vaping is now the most popular form of tobacco youth among U.S. teens, with rates of teen use jumping by 78% from 2017 to 2018 alone.
Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb swore to crack down on teen vaping, even threatening to ban e-cigarettes entirely if things did not improve. However, he resigned his position at the EPA in April, leaving the agency’s vaping enforcement actions in limbo.
Days after Gottlieb stepped down in early April, a group of U.S. Senators demanded JUUL take some form of action to curb teen use of its products.
The senators expressed concern regarding the recent merger between JUUL and Altria, noting that Altria is known for having targeted children with tobacco marketing in the past. They also express concern about the high level of secrecy around JUUL’s business practices, and are asking for documents revealing those practices to ensure the company is not specifically marketing toward children.
But North Carolina says there is evidence JUUL did just that. Stein’s office launched an investigation into the company’s practices last fall.
“It is no accident that JUUL has achieved such striking success in attracting underage users. JUUL’s popularity among teens is the predictable result of JUUL’s youth-focused business strategy,” the lawsuit states. “That strategy drove the development and design of JUUL’s products, the ways in which they were marketed, and their methods of delivery.”
This latest complaint joins a growing number of JUUL vaping addiction lawsuits filed by families of teens who suffered health problems, including heart attacks, pneumonia and other conditions.
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