Juul Labs Inc. is being sued by New York for allegedly trampling state marketing laws by targeting teenagers in advertisements for e-cigarettes and misleading statements about nicotine content in vaping products, among other things, the state’s top law enforcement officer said.
The lawsuit, announced Tuesday by New York Attorney General Letitia James, comes one day after California filed a similar complaint against Juul. The allegations by the Democratic-led states add to earlier legal challenges by schools, parents and others accusing the embattled company of wrongdoing.
“By glamorizing vaping, while at the same time downplaying the nicotine found in vaping products, Juul is putting countless New Yorkers at risk,” James said in a statement.
Perhaps the most serious claim in New York’s case – marketing e-cigarettes to teens – alleges Juul caused “large numbers of New York youth to become addicted to nicotine,” the attorney general’s office said in a statement.
“Juul’s pervasive ad campaign, which included bright, colorful images of attractive, young models, appealed to underage youth,” James said. The company also attracted teenagers – including some in New York – by offering flavored vaping products, she said.
The attorney general said a recent National Youth Tobacco Survey indicates that about 4.1 million high school students and 1.2 million middle school students currently use e-cigarettes in the U.S.
As of Nov. 13, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported 42 deaths of patients tied to e-cigarette or vaping product use, with a further 2,172 cases of associated lung injury reported nationwide.
Juul spokesman Austin Finan, in a response to California’s lawsuit on Monday, said in a statement that the company is committed to “resetting the vapor category” and “earning the trust of society” by working with authorities to “combat underage use and convert adult smokers from combustible cigarettes.”
In the U.S., Juul has stopped accepting orders for Mint JUULpods – a popular flavor with younger consumers – and suspended all product advertising, Finan said. “Our customer base is the world’s 1 billion adult smokers and we do not intend to attract underage users.”
New York’s lawsuit underscores the legal challenges facing Juul, the top seller of e-cigarettes, as deaths and illnesses linked to vaping add up across the U.S.
New York alleges Juul “took a page from Big Tobacco’s playbook” by engaging in deceptive business practices and illegally selling its products to minors, according to the statement. The allegedly illegal sales were carried out through Juul’s website and in third-party retail stores, the state said.
The suit also alleges that San Francisco-based Juul’s ads misled consumers “by misrepresenting its products as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes,” according to the statement.
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