Juul is facing a slew of lawsuits over allegations that it knowingly marketed and sold nicotine-carrying products to teenagers. The Brevard School County Board, Bullitt County Schools, and Glendale Unified have filed lawsuits against Juul. But the most high–profile case appears to be the one where D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine is suing Juul for the points mentioned above and also for lying about its efforts to curb smoking amongst the city’s youth.
Racine said, “Juul was marketing its product without specifically noting that the product contains nicotine, which is a very addictive chemical. Moreover, Juul borrowed its marketing strategies from the Big Tobacco playbook, which was really focused on drawing in teenagers. In addition, while Juul has over time started to take some actions to verify age of the buyers online, the reality is that their methods were sporadic initially and ineffective”.
He further added, ““Altogether, we think that they have been misleading, that they have targeted teenage users, and that there is an ongoing harm that’s being caused that needs to be redressed”.
Interestingly, Racine stated that subpoenas have been issued to eight other e-cigarette companies.
In response to the legal proccedings initiated, a Juul spokesperson said, “While we have not yet reviewed the complaint, we remain focused on resetting the vapor category in the U.S. and earning the trust of society by working cooperatively with attorneys general, regulators, public health officials and other stakeholders to combat underage use and convert adult smokers from combustible cigarettes. As part of that process, we recently stopped accepting orders for our Mint Juul pods in the U.S., suspended all broadcast, print and digital product advertising in the U.S. and are investing in scientific research to ensure the quality of our FDA Premarket Tobacco Product Application (PMTA) application and expanding our commitment to develop new technology to reduce youth use. Our customer base is the world’s one billion adult smokers, and we do not intend to attract underage users.”
Juuling, as the use of Juul nicotine-flavored vaping pods came to be called, had become a craze among high-school students. Juul marketed its products, purportedly, as a safer alternative to smoking for adults. James Monsees, a co-founder insisted that the company never wanted a non-nicotine user to ever use Juul. However, interviews with former employees and a perusal of the company’s social media posts suggests that the company is being less than honest with this assertion.
Juul captured the e-cigarette market after targeting people in their twenties and early thirties. This demographic has traditionally been one with fewer smokers. The company marketed its products frenetically worried that stricter government regulations might impact investments made. It was only in 2018, after an FDA requirement, that the company put a warning on its label that the products contained nicotine. In 2017, the company refused to stop marketing its vaping pods to high school students, knowing fully well that they were exposing minors to the dangers of nicotine addiction.
Questions are being asked, as to why if the company was indeed serious about weaning adults away from nicotine, did it allow tobacco giant Altria a 35% stake in the company.
One of the reasons why the company aggressively marketed its products to the extent of suppressing information about nicotine and targeting minors was that the big investors, such as Fidelity Investments, were beginning to seek returns.
After the company split from Pax Labs in 2017 and began operating independently as Juul Labs, its fortunes turned and by December 2018, it was valued at $38 billion. It had 75% of the vaping marketing under its belt.
Between 206-18, six million non-smoking adults were introduced to cigarettes via e-cigarettes and, if the plaintiffs in the various legal cases are to be believed, Juul played a big role in this. Apart from these, millions of high-school and middle-school students were introduced to vaping. The addictive nature of the drug, nicotine, has meant that many teenagers who’ve wanted to quit, have been unable to do so.
While most e-smoking pods in the market came with 2%-3% nicotine, Juul pods carried up to 5% nicotine; the equivalent of nicotine in a pack of cigarettes.