Juul Gets Sued
The e-cigarette company, Juul Labs, Inc., is having a rough week and there are no signs of things letting up. At the beginning of the week, the news broke that California had filed a lawsuit against the company for allegedly targeting underage Californians with its marketing and sales practices.
Then, on Tuesday, it was announced that New York’s Attorney General Letitia James filed a similar lawsuit against the company for "deceptive and misleading marketing of its e-cigarettes," which contributed to the ongoing youth vaping epidemic in New York State.
As I write this, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported 2,051 U.S. cases of EVALI (e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury). It has also reported 39 deaths related to e-cigarette or vaping product use.
The cause of the disease is still under investigation, but the CDC has found a link between vaping and a particular toxin. Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC said, "For the first time we have detected a potential toxin of concern: vitamin E acetate."
Samples that were taken from the lungs of 29 people with EVALI had vitamin E acetate, which is commonly used in ingested supplements or skincare. In those circumstances, the chemical tends to be safe. However, Schuchat’s research shows that "when it is inhaled it may interfere with normal lung function."
The people who have been affected by these illnesses range in age from 13 to 75 years old, with 75% under the age of 35. It is deeply disturbing that the majority of these people are under the age of 35. Companies like Juul may claim that they had no intention of marketing their products to younger consumers, but that’s what they did, especially by offering “fun” flavors that are more appealing than traditional nicotine.
The lawsuit filed by Attorney General James alleges that Juul illegally sold its products to minors through its website and in third-party retail stores, failed to warn consumers that its products contained nicotine, and marketed and misrepresented its products as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes.
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.
Juul spokesperson Austin Finan said in response:
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.
But that response hasn’t been good enough. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has accused Juul of telling students that its products are "totally safe." Not to mention, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the House, and the Senate have launched their own investigations.
Juul says that it has launched a track-and-trace program in an effort to reduce teen vaping and is discontinuing its fruit- and mint-flavored products. In 2020, retailers will be required to scan customers’ IDs before selling the company's products.
Unfortunately, these new protocols won’t save Juul. People are dying because they were enticed by shadily marketed products that were supposed to be a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes.
Until next time,