By Pat Gainor, Staff Writer
Last Wednesday, e-cigarette mogul, Juul Labs, agreed to pay $462 million over eight years to settle claims by six U.S. states and the District of Columbia that it unlawfully marketed its products to minors.
The lawsuit, which included New York, California, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts and New Mexico, focused mostly on Juul’s advertising, with many states accusing the company of falsely marketing its e-cigarette products as less addictive than traditional cigarettes and misleading young users with its advertising campaigns.
The agreement brings a near end to Juul’s legal woes that have been active since 2019, though the company has not claimed responsibility for any illegal actions.The settlement was negotiated as a group but comes from separate lawsuits.
“With this settlement, we are nearing total resolution of the company’s historical legal challenges and securing certainty for our future,” the company said in a press release following the settlement.
The company previously reached a $439 million settlement with 34 other states in other lawsuits filed separately by 49 states and territories. Juul also agreed to pay $1.7 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits filed by local government entities or private customers.
“Today’s settlement holds Juul accountable for its actions and puts a stop to its harmful business practices. What’s more, is that it will bring millions in funding to help California abate and prevent the harms of e-cigarettes and nicotine addiction,” said California Attorney General Rob Bonta.
“As a father and as our state’s top law enforcement official, I remain committed to protecting the health, quality of life and future of California’s children,” he noted.
At a news conference following the settlement, New York Attorney General Letitia James stated, “Juul’s lies led to a nationwide public health crisis and put addictive products in the hands of minors who thought they were doing something harmless.”
“Today’s agreement will help young New Yorkers put their vapes down for good and ensure that future generations understand the harms of vaping,” she added.
Juul, one of the most recognizable names in the e-cigarette industry, came under fire in 2019 after regulators began accusing the company of misleading marketing practices, with Juul eventually removing most of their flavors from the market and significantly cutting down on their marketing. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently reviewing its 2022 ban on Juul products.
The ongoing lawsuit has done catastrophic damage to Juul’s market value. Over the last five years, Juul’s market share in the e-cigarette industry dropped from a massive 75% in 2018 to less than 30% in 2023.
Last month, Altria – the company behind Marlboro cigarettes and formerly Juul’s biggest investor – announced that they had given up their investment in Juul in exchange for a share of Juul’s intellectual property. Their share of the company dropped 98% from $12.8 billion to $250 million.
Altria is also facing lawsuits alleging that they assisted Juul in illegally advertising to minors.
While most of the lawsuits Juul has faced over the last five years have been settled, the company is currently being prosecuted in Minnesota, with the state suing them and Altria over “creating a public nuisance by marketing e-cigarettes to minors.” Outside of Minnesota, Juul is still being investigated by Florida, Michigan, Maine and Alaska.