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Washington is the latest state to file a lawsuit against the makers of JUUL vape pods, indicating that the company intentionally marketed the nicotine product to underage users in order to create lifelong customers addicted to vaping.
On September 2, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson issued a press release, announcing a JUUL lawsuit (PDF), which was filed in King County Superior Court. This makes it the latest of a number of states which have filed complaints against JUUL Labs, and its progenitor, Pax Labs, Inc.
The lawsuit claims JUUL’s manufacturers violated the state’s Consumer Protection Act through its unlawful marketing of nicotine products to children and that it lied to customers about the addictiveness of its vaping products. The lawsuit also claims every sale of a JUUL product from August 2016 to August 2018 in the state was illegal, due to JUUL failing to meet the state’s tobacco vapor product licensing requirements.
“JUUL put profits before people,” Ferguson said in the press release. “Pushing unfair and deceptive marketing strategies appealing to youth, the company fueled a staggering rise in vaping among teens. JUUL’s conduct reversed decades of progress fighting nicotine addiction, and they must be held accountable.”
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 Washington State AG lawsuit lays out how it believes JUULs efforts to illegally advertise to children in order to make them into JUUL vaping addicts was intentional, successful, callous and illegal. The lawsuit points out that even the company’s co-founder, James Monsees, admitted its campaign was flawed through its targeting of youth appeal, and is largely responsible for the company’s success.
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.