28 June 2021
Dominic Rushe and agencies. Source: The Guardian
Juul has agreed to pay $40m to the state of North Carolina to settle a lawsuit that accused the e-cigarette maker of marketing its products to minors.
The settlement, announced on Monday by the North Carolina attorney general, Josh Stein, is the first reached by the company with a state government. A trial was set to start in July.
The deal also includes restrictions on sales of products that appeal to minors and requires Juul to produce yearly reports demonstrating its compliance.
Stein told a news conference he began investigating Juul after “hearing from friends about the devastation that this product had visited on kids’ lives – addiction, depression, bad grades, switching schools, medical treatment and more”.
“Juul sparked and spread a disease, the disease of nicotine addiction. They did it to teenagers across North Carolina and this country simply to make money,” Stein said. “Their greed is not only reprehensible, it is unlawful.”
Documents obtained by North Carolina during its investigations will be made available to the public in July 2022. The money from the settlement will be used to conduct research into youth vaping and cessation methods.
Juul didn’t admit wrongdoing as part of the settlement.
“We look forward to working with attorney general Stein and other manufacturers on the development of potential industrywide marketing practices based on science and evidence,” a Juul spokesperson said. “In addition, we support the attorney general’s desire to deploy funds to generate appropriate science to support North Carolina’s public health interventions to reduce underage use.”
Juul, in which Marlboro maker Altria Group took a 35% stake in 2018, makes e-cigarettes that resemble USB flash drives and work by vaporizing a nicotine-laced liquid. In its 2019 lawsuit, North Carolina said the company downplayed the potential harm its products can cause, fueling an “epidemic” of vaping among minors.
Under pressure from regulators, the company had already pulled popular flavors such as mango and cucumber from retail store shelves and shut down its social media channels on Instagram and Facebook.
The company still faces more than 2,000 lawsuits over its e-cigarette marketing. The US Federal Trade Commission in March asked Juul and other e-cigarette makers to hand over sales and advertising data.
Reuters contributed to this story