HARTFORD, Conn. E-cigarette maker Juul Labs will pay nearly $440 million to settle a two-year investigation by 33 states into the marketing of their high-nicotine vaping products, which has long been has been blamed for a nationwide rise in teen vaping.
Connecticut Attorney General William Tong announced the agreement Tuesday on behalf of the states plus Puerto Rico, which have joined together in 2020 to probe Juul’s initial promotions and claim the safety and benefits of its technology as a alternative medicine.
The deal settles one of the biggest legal threats facing the beleaguered company, which still faces nine separate lawsuits from other states. In addition, Juul faces hundreds of personal suits worn on behalf of teenagers and others who say they have become addicted to the company’s vaping products.
State investigation reveals Juul marketing its e-cigarettes to teenagers with launch parties, product giveaways and advertisements and social media posts using youthful models, according to a statement.
“Through this settlement, we secured hundreds of millions of dollars to help reduce nicotine use and forced Juul to accept a series of strict terms of the ban to end youth marketing and crack down on underage trafficking,” Tong said in a press release.
$438.5 million will be paid out over a period of six to 10 years. Tong said Connecticut’s payment of at least $16 million would go toward vaping prevention and education efforts. Juul has previously settled lawsuits in Arizona, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Washington.
Most of the limits imposed by Tuesday’s deal won’t affect Juul’s operations, which halted use of parties, giveaways and other promotions after coming under scrutiny. a few years ago.
Teen e-cigarette use skyrocketed after Juul’s launch in 2015, prompting the US Food and Drug Administration to declare a “pandemic” of teen vaping. Health experts say the unprecedented rise threatens to lure a generation of young adults into nicotine.
But as of 2019, Juul has largely retreated, dropping all US advertising and pulling fruit and candy flavors from store shelves.
The biggest hit came earlier this summer when the FDA moved to ban all e-cigarettes Juul from the market. Juul challenged that ruling in court, and the FDA has since reopened a scientific review of the company’s technology.
The FDA review is part of a sweeping effort by regulators to scrutinize the multi-billion dollar vaping industry after years of regulatory delays. The agency has authorized a small number of e-cigarettes for adult smokers looking for a less toxic alternative.
While Juul’s initial marketing focused on young, urban consumersthe company has moved to advertise its product as an alternative source of nicotine for older smokers.
“We remain focused on our future as we complete our mission to move adult smokers away from tobacco – The number one cause of preventable death – while against the use of minors,” the company said in a statement.
Juul has agreed to decline a range of marketing activities as part of the settlement. These include not using cartoons, paying social media influencers, depicting people under the age of 35, advertising on billboards and public transport, and placing ads anywhere. any store unless 85% of their audience is adults.
The agreement also includes restrictions on where Juul products can be placed in stores, age verification for all sales, and limits for online and retail sales.
Juul originally sold high-nicotine pods in flavors like mango, mint, and creme. These products have become a scourge in American high schools, with students steaming in bathrooms and hallways between classrooms.
But recent federal survey data shows that teens have turned away from the company. Most teenagers now prefer disposable e-cigarettes, some continue to be sold with sweet fruit flavors.
Overall, the survey found that youth vaping rates dropped by nearly 40% as many children were forced to stay homeschooled during the pandemic. However, federal officials still cautioned against interpreting the results because they were first collected online, rather than in a classroom.
Perrone reports from Washington, DC
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