Arguing that the e-cigarette company deliberately marketed their products to young people and contributed to a “youth vaping epidemic,” New York and California joined other states in filing a lawsuit against Juul Labs Inc. this week.
According to the Attorney General of the State of New York’s office, the advertising from the vape company was “deceptive and misleading,” using attractive young people, bright colors and their web presence to appeal to young people — while failing to adequately warn about the effects of nicotine and even, allegedly, having representatives falsely tell young people that their products were safer alternatives to cigarettes. They also allege that the company illegally sold e-cigarette products to minors through their website and in retail stores — which is extremely troubling given recent government surveys found that one in four high school students admitted to vaping within the previous 30 days.
“There can be no doubt that Juul’s aggressive advertising has significantly contributed to the public health crisis that has left youth in New York and across the country addicted to its products,” Attorney General James said on Tuesday.“By glamorizing vaping, while at the same time downplaying the nicotine found in vaping products, Juul is putting countless New Yorkers at risk. I am prepared to use every legal tool in our arsenal to protect the health and safety of our youth.”
BREAKING: I filed a lawsuit against @JUULvapor.
JUUL has allegedly engaged in deceptive marketing practices targeting minors and misled consumers about both the nicotine content and safety of its products.
They’ve put countless New Yorkers at risk & we won’t stand for it. pic.twitter.com/szuU0M5e0n
— NY AG James (@NewYorkStateAG) November 19, 2019
This lawsuit comes after New York, in early November 2019, changed their state law making it illegal to sell nicotine products (including traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes) to people under the age of 21. In September 2019, as SheKnows previous reported, Juul announced the resignation of their CEO Kevin Burns and the suspension of the aforementioned advertising campaigns. In October, the company also announced that they would be removing their non-tobacco or menthol flavors from retailers.
California and Los Angeles County announced similar lawsuits on Monday, claiming that the advertising targeted young people without transparency about its health risks, also noting that they used similar insidious strategies that the tobacco industry (AKA Big Tobacco) used for cigarettes in previous years.
“We’ve worked too hard, committed our hard-earned money for too long combatting harmful tobacco use to stand idly by as we now lose Californians to vaping and nicotine addiction,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “JUUL adopted the tobacco industry’s infamous playbook, employing advertisements that had no regard for public health and searching out vulnerable targets. Today we take legal action against the deceptive practices that JUUL and the e-cigarette industry employ to lure our kids into their vaping web. We will hold JUUL and any other company that fuels a public health crisis accountable.”
The American Medical Association (AMA) also released a statement on Tuesday affirming their call for a national ban on e-cigarette and vaping products that don’t meet Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval as tools to quit more extreme tobacco use. They also announced additional policies the group has voted to support including pushing for legislative and legal action to ban the sale of e-cigarette and vaping products; calling for funding to further research on the safety of e-cigarettes as a tool for quitting tobacco use, study on treatment strategies for tobacco use and nicotine dependence; collaborating with health care professionals and pharmacists to push for the removal of tobacco products from pharmacies and to advocating for “diagnostic codes for e-cigarette and vaping associated illnesses, including pulmonary toxicity.”
“Since declaring e-cigarette use and vaping an urgent public health epidemic in 2018, the AMA has pushed for more stringent policies to help protect our nation’s young people from the harmful effects of tobacco and nicotine use,” AMA President Patrice A. Harris, M.D., M.A. said in a statement. “For decades we have led the public health fight to combat the harmful effects of tobacco products, and we will continue to support policies and regulations aimed at preventing another generation from becoming dependent on nicotine.”
In an email to SheKnows, Austin Finan, senior director of communications at Juul Labs 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 JUULpods 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 1 billion adult smokers and we do not intend to attract underage users.”
ICYMI, SheKnows spoke with real teens to find out what they actually think about vaping: