North Carolina AG sues e-cigarette maker Juul

North Carolina AG sues e-cigarette maker Juul
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North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein (D) filed a lawsuit Wednesday against e-cigarette maker Juul, arguing the company deliberately targeted young people and misrepresented the potency and danger of nicotine in its products.

North Carolina is the first state to take legal action against Juul, which is also facing pressure from federal regulators amidst an unprecedented spike in teen vaping.

The suit, which was filed in state court, alleges that Juul deliberately designed flavors, its product, and its chemical composition to appeal to young people. 

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“JUUL targeted young people as customers. As a result, vaping has become an epidemic among minors,” Stein said in a statement. “JUUL's business practices are not only reckless, they're illegal. And I intend to put a stop to them. We cannot allow another generation of young people to become addicted to nicotine.”

Stein said Juul marketed its products to youth on social media platforms and through the use of youth-oriented sponsors and social media influencers. He also accused Juul of using lax age verification techniques for online purchases that allowed people to avoid or circumvent age requirements.

Juul accounts for about 75 percent of the e-cigarette market.

According to the complaint, Juul routinely understated the strength of nicotine in its products and downplayed their health risks.

“JUUL entered the e-cigarette market with among the highest nicotine potency of any product, a nicotine level so high that, in some countries, it is illegal for consumers of any age,” the complaint stated. “JUUL has deceived consumers about that nicotine strength, has misrepresented the nicotine equivalency of its products to traditional cigarettes, and has understated the risks of addiction that occur with such powerful levels of nicotine.”

In a statement, a Juul spokesperson said “[w]hile we have not yet reviewed the complaint, we share the Attorney General’s concerns about youth vaping, which is why we have been cooperating with his office and why we have taken the most aggressive actions of anyone in the industry to combat youth usage.”

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed a crackdown on e-cigarette products, but Stein is asking the court to go even further.

He wants the court to prohibit Juul from selling any flavors other than tobacco and menthol to people in North Carolina. He also asked the court to stop Juul’s advertising and marketing practices that are intended to or likely to appeal to minors, and to delete all customer data for customers who the company can’t confirm are at least 18.  

Juul said it has already stopped selling non-tobacco and non-menthol based flavored pods in retail stores, “enhanced” its online age verification process and shut down its Facebook and Instagram accounts “while working constantly to remove inappropriate social media content generated by others on those platforms.”