E-cigarette maker Juul Labs is paying $462 million in the company’s largest multi-state settlement to date. This payment will go to the six states, New York, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and Colorado, as well as the District of Columbia.
The lawsuit accuses Juul of directly promoting its products to high school age students, including an instance where a Juul representative “falsely told high school freshmen that its products were safer than cigarettes.” The suit also says that Juul’s advertising campaign reached teenagers who subsequently told their friends about Juul in “rapid numbers.”
Documents from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office state that Juul reportedly bought advertising space for their products on media targeted to young audiences—including Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., Cartoon Network, and Seventeen. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, roughly 2.55 million middle and high school students in the US used e-cigarettes in 2022.
The settlement was co-led by New York Attorney General Letitia James and California Attorney General Rob Bonta. Retailers will now have to keep Juul products secure behind counters, verify the age of purchasers, and stop using people under 35 years old in marketing materials. Juul is also restricted from advertising on social media channels used by youths, on billboards, or on public transportation.
“JUUL lit a nationwide public health crisis by putting addictive products in the hands of minors and convincing them that it’s harmless—today they are paying the price for the harm they caused,” New York Attorney General James said in a statement. “Too many young New Yorkers are struggling to quit vaping and there is no doubt that JUUL played a central role in the nationwide vaping epidemic. Today’s agreement will help young New Yorkers put their vapes down for good and ensure that future generations understand the harms of vaping. I thank my fellow attorneys general for their collaboration on this effort to protect the health and well-being of our communities.”
This latest agreement brings many of Juuls legal woes to a close for now, with settlements now reached with 47 states and territories, and 5,000 individuals and local governments. In September 2022, the company reached a settlement brought forth by Connecticut, Texas, and Oregon for $438.5 million that will be doled out to 33 states and Puerto Rico over the next six to 10 years.
In response to the latest settlement, Juul wrote “the terms of the agreement, like prior settlements, provide financial resources to further combat underage use and develop cessation programs and reflect our current business practices, which were implemented as part of our company-wide reset in the fall of 2019. Since then, underage use of JUUL products has declined by 95% based on the National Youth Tobacco Survey.”
Currently, Juul is in the middle of a trial in Minnesota, the first time that any of the thousands of cases against the e-cigarette maker has gone to court. The trial is expected to wrap up next week.
According to The New York Times, the troubled company’s efforts to broker deals in these lawsuits have cost it close to $3 billion, which is a large sum as the company still seeking official regulatory approval to keep selling its products.