District of Columbia sues Juul over alleged underage marketing

District of Columbia sues Juul over alleged underage marketing
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The District of Columbia on Tuesday announced a lawsuit against e-cigarette manufacturer Juul, becoming the latest jurisdiction to sue the company over its alleged marketing to minors.

Attorney General Karl Racine (D) accused Juul of deliberately targeting underage consumers; failing to verify ages of purchasers; and deceiving consumers about the content, strength and safety of its products. 

“Juul developed flavor profiles, such as mango, coco mint, and fruit medley, that were tailored towards kids,” the complaint said. “It altered the chemical composition of its nicotine pods to make vaping JUUL less irritating to inexperienced smokers’ throats and more addictive at the same time. And it designed an e-cigarette that was sleek and concealable, unlikely to draw attention, and easily stashed in a backpack or even a back pocket.”

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D.C.’s action follows similar lawsuits filed last week by California and New York; North Carolina was the first state to sue Juul earlier this year.

Juul has disputed allegations that it marketed to teens. In a statement, a spokesman noted that Juul’s customer base “is the world’s 1 billion adult smokers and we do not intend to attract underage users.” 

Under pressure from Congress and federal and state investigators, Juul has halted its advertising and removed most of its flavors from the market. It recently removed its CEO, and replaced him with a former executive from Altria, the tobacco company that owns a 35 percent stake in Juul.

The company still controls nearly two-thirds of the U.S. vaping market. 

“With this lawsuit, we are seeking to hold JUUL accountable for its illegal practices that have unfairly and unconscionably dragged a new generation into nicotine addiction,” Racine said in a statement.

Racine said he also issued subpoenas to eight other e-cigarette companies, seeking information on the companies’ business and marketing practices in the District of Columbia, and their policies related to preventing minors from purchasing their products.