Juul to pay $440 million settlement after lawsuit

By Spencer de Tenley, Multimedia Managing Editor

The vaping products made by electronic cigarette company Juul Labs have faced criticism for encouraging youth vaping and nicotine habits.

Electronic cigarette maker Juul Labs agreed to pay a $440 million settlement finishing a two-year-long investigation backed by more than 30 states blaming the company for the teen vaping surge in recent years.

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong released the deal on Tuesday as a spokesperson for the states and Puerto Rico, which joined forces in 2020 in an effort against Juul Labs’ claims that their product was of a safer alternative to smoking. According to the statement, the states’ investigation ascertained that the marketing practices of Juul Labs included product giveaways, launch parties, advertisements and social media posts that used young models.

The temporary settlement forbids the company from marketing to teens, falsifying the amount of nicotine in its products and funding education in schools. Juul has already discontinued a wide variety of their teen-appealing flavored pods and some of the aforementioned marketing practices. These previous modifications to the company came at the height of outrage from lawmakers, parents and health experts at the vaping crisis. 

“We think that this will go a long way in stemming the flow of youth vaping,” Tong declared at a news conference at his Hartford office.

“I’m under no illusions and cannot claim that it will stop youth vaping,” he said. “It continues to be an epidemic. It continues to be a huge problem. But we have essentially taken a big chunk out of what was once a market leader, and by their conduct, a major offender.” 

Juul Labs is not out of hot water just yet, as nine more separate state-backed lawsuits and hundreds of personal lawsuits come their way.

With the debut of Juul Labs in 2015, teenage use of e-cigarettes skyrocketed ultimately leading to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declaring underage vaping among teenagers an “epidemic.” 

Juul Labs’ popularity has declined as a business since 2019, when they pulled all fruit and candy flavors from store shelves. The   costly settlement is dwarfed, though, by the Brobdingnagian blow being the FDA’s movement to ban all of Juul Labs’ e-cigarettes from the market. 

Juul Labs’ has since challenged that ruling in court, leading the FDA to reopen its scientific review of the company’s technology. 

In the wake of these blows, Juul Labs has reformed its intended audience to target older smokers seeking an alternative, moving away from allegedly targeting younger individuals with their advertisements.

“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. 

Juul Labs’ has agreed to forgo a myriad of marketing practices in this reformation. These include not paying social media influencers, using cartoons, depicting people under 35, advertising on billboards and public transportation, and placing ads in areas where less than 85% of onlookers are adults. The restrictions go further, constraining where Juul products can be placed in stores and mandating age verification on all sales.