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The makers of JUUL vaping products face a lawsuit brought by the New Mexico Attorney General, which accuses the company of illegally marketing and selling e-cigarettes to underage consumers.
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas issued a press release (PDF) announcing the filing of the JUUL lawsuit on May 8, indicating the manufacturer intentionally got teens addicted to JUUL nicotine products.
Electronic cigarettes were initially marketed as a safer alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes. However, with the introduction of JUUL vape pods and other flavored e-cigarettes specifically targeted toward teens and non-smokers, there is now a growing epidemic of youth e-cigarette addiction nationwide.
JUUL Labs has been accused of fueling the growing teen nicotine addiction problems in the United States, with allegations indicating that the vaping pods were intentionally designed to look like a USB thumb drives, as part of an effort to appeal to youth.
In September 2019, the FDA issued a warning letter to JUUL, indicating there was evidence the company told school-aged children its products were safer than cigarettes, which has not been proven.
The New Mexico lawsuit accuses JUUL of creating a public health crisis and underage nicotine addiction epidemic. It calls for the company to pay restitution and damages.
“Vaping companies should not be targeting New Mexican children with an addictive product that could compromise their health and safety,” Balderas said in the press release. “My office will continue to fight large companies who harm our families and risk the lives of our future generation.”
The lawsuit indicates JUUL’s success is based on its social marketing to teens, the use of flavors designed to entice children and teens, their products’ addictiveness, and the dependency of its users on JUUL pods to get their nicotine fix.
Balderas’ complaint indicates E-cigarette use among teens is “particularly problematic” in New Mexico, where just under 25% of high school students, and 15% of middle school children, reported vaping in 2017. Those rates were double the national average, the lawsuit indicates.
Nationally, among high school students, e-cigarette use increased 10-fold, from 1.5 percent in 2011 to 16 percent in 2015. While many states regulate the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, e-cigarettes have been easily available to youth via the internet for several years.
A growing number of JUUL lawsuits and class action claims have been filed nationwide. Given similar questions of fact and law raised in complaints brought throughout the federal court system, the JUUL litigation has been centralized before U.S. District 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.
As JUUL addiction lawyers continue to review and file claims in the coming months, the litigation is expected to continue to grow, and is likely to encompass tens of thousands of complaints.