HARTFORD, Conn. (TBEN) — Electronic cigarette maker Juul Labs will pay nearly $440 million to settle a two-year investigation by 33 states into the marketing of its high-nicotine vaping products, which have long been blamed for causing a national wave of teenage vaping.
Connecticut Attorney General William Tong announced the deal Tuesday on behalf of states plus Puerto Rico, which met in 2020 to investigate Juul’s early promotions and claims about the safety and benefits of its technology as a smoking alternative.
The settlement resolves one of the biggest legal threats facing the beleaguered company, which still faces nine separate lawsuits from other states. In addition, Juul faces hundreds of personal lawsuits filed on behalf of teens and others who say they have become addicted to the company’s vape products.
The state investigation found that Juul marketed its e-cigarettes to underage teens with launch parties, product giveaways and social media ads and posts using youthful models, according to a statement.
“Through this settlement, we have secured hundreds of millions of dollars to help reduce nicotine use and have forced Juul to accept a series of strict bans to end youth marketing and target the sale of minors,” Tong said in a statement. press release.
The $438.5 million will be paid out over six to ten years. Tong said Connecticut’s payment of at least $16 million will go toward vaping prevention and education efforts. Juul previously settled lawsuits in Arizona, Louisiana, North Carolina and Washington.
Most of the limits imposed by Tuesday’s settlement will not affect Juul’s practices, which stopped using parties, giveaways and other promotions after coming under scrutiny several years ago.
E-cigarette use by teens skyrocketed after the launch of Juul in 2015, leading the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to declare an “epidemic” of underage vaping among teens. Health experts said the unprecedented increase would risk binding a generation of young people to nicotine.
But since 2019, Juul has largely backed out, dropping all U.S. ads and removing its fruit and candy flavors from store shelves.
The biggest blow came earlier this summer when the FDA decided to ban all Juul e-cigarettes from the market. Juul has challenged that ruling in court, and the FDA has since reopened its scientific review of the company’s technology.
The FDA review is part of a sweeping effort by regulators to scrutinize the multi-billion dollar vaping industry after years of regulatory delays. The agency has approved a handful of e-cigarettes for adult smokers looking for a less harmful alternative.
While Juul’s early marketing was aimed at young, urban consumers, the company has since moved on to offering its product as an alternative nicotine source for older smokers.
“We remain focused on our future as we fulfill our mission to move adult smokers away from cigarettes – the leading cause of preventable death – while fighting underage use,” the company said in a statement.
Juul has agreed to abstain from numerous marketing practices as part of the settlement. These include not using cartoons, paying influencers on social media, portraying people under the age of 35, advertising on billboards and on public transport, and placing ads in all outlets unless 85% of their audience is mature.
The deal also includes restrictions on where Juul products may be placed in stores, age verification on all sales, and limits on online and retail sales.
Juul initially sold its nicotine pods in flavors such as mango, TBEN and cream. The products became a scourge in US high schools, with students vaping in bathrooms and hallways between classes.
But recent federal research data shows teens are leaving the company. Most teens now prefer disposable e-cigarettes, some of which are still sold in sweet, fruity flavors.
Overall, the survey showed a nearly 40% drop in teen vaping as many children were forced to learn from home during the pandemic. Still, federal officials cautioned against interpreting the results as they were first collected online rather than in classrooms.
Platform reported from Washington, DC
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