HARTFORD, Conn. — 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 sparking a national surge in teen vaping.
Connecticut Attorney General William Tong announced the deal Tuesday on behalf of the states plus Puerto Rico, which joined together in 2020 to probe Juul’s early promotions and claims about the safety and benefits of its technology as a smoking alternative.
Although the settlement eliminates the largest legal threat to Juul, it still faces nine other lawsuits. Additionally, Juul faces hundreds of personal suits brought on behalf of teenagers and others who say they became addicted to the company’s vaping products.
A statement said that Juul had launched parties and giveaways for its products, as well as social media posts featuring young models.
“Through this settlement, we have secured hundreds of millions of dollars to help reduce nicotine use and forced Juul to accept a series of strict injunctive terms to end youth marketing and crack down on underage sales,” Tong said in a press release.
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This $438.5 million payment will be made over six to ten years. Tong said Connecticut’s payment of at least $16 million will go toward vaping prevention and education efforts. Juul has previously settled cases in Arizona, Louisiana North Carolina, North Carolina, and Washington.
Most of the limits imposed by Tuesday’s settlement won’t affect Juul’s practices, which halted use of parties, giveaways and other promotions after coming under scrutiny several several years ago.
Teen use of e-cigarettes skyrocketed after Juul’s launch in 2015, leading the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to declare an “epidemic” of underage vaping among teenagers. According to health experts, the extraordinary increase in nicotine use could have a negative impact on young smokers.
Juul is now mostly retreating, dropping U.S. ads and withdrawing its candy and fruit flavours from the store shelves.
This summer, the FDA attempted to remove all Juul ecigarettes from sale. Juul challenged that ruling in court, and the FDA has since reopened its scientific review of the company’s technology.
After years of delays, the FDA review forms part of an extensive regulatory effort to examine vaping’s multibillion dollar industry. Adult smokers seeking a safer alternative to smoking have been granted permission by the FDA.
While Juul’s early marketing focused on young, urban consumers, the company has since shifted to pitching its product as an alternative nicotine source for older smokers.
“We remain focused on our future as we fulfill our mission to transition adult smokers away from cigarettes – the number one cause of preventable death – while combating underage use,” the company said in a statement.
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Juul agreed not to engage in a variety of marketing techniques as part of this settlement. The settlement includes not using cartoons, not paying social media influencers to depict people under 35 and not advertising on billboards or public transportation. Ads should be placed in outlets that are only open to adults if 85% of the audience is over 18.
This deal includes limitations on Juul products being placed in retail stores and age verification for all sales. It also limits online and retail sales.
Juul first sold high-nicotine pods, in flavor like mint, creme and mango. These products quickly became an issue in American high schools. Students were vaping between classes in hallways and bathrooms.
However, recent data from a federal survey shows teens are leaving the company. Many teens prefer to use disposable e-cigarettes. Some of these e-cigarettes are still available in fruity, sweet flavors.
As many students were forced to take classes at home due to the pandemic, overall the survey found that teens smoked less than 40%. Federal officials warned against misinterpreting the data as they had been collected online, rather than in classrooms.
Perrone reported in Washington, D.C.
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