A new e-cigarette lawsuit claims JUUL Labs intentionally downplayed the serious health risks associated with its popular vaping products in an effort to attract teens and other under-age users.
The complaint was apparently filed on Monday in the U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida, by the parents of a teenage girl who purportedly developed a nicotine addiction due to her vaping habit. Their JUUL class action lawsuit seeks putative damages on behalf of other children and parents facing similar circumstances. (Case 8:19-cv-00884)
JUUL Labs’ vaporizers resemble a common USB drive, making them easy to conceal from parents and teachers. The corresponding nicotine pods come in a variety of candy and dessert flavors. JUUL controls about 75% of the e-cigarette market and is the most popular vaping brand among teens. However, a survey of young users recently published by Truth Initiative found that 63% did not know that JUUL liquids contained nicotine
According to the JUUL class action lawsuit, the plaintiffs believed their daughter’s vaporizer was a USB drive. Among other things, they allege JUUL Labs intentionally designed the devices to deliver a higher dose of nicotine in order to create and sustain addictions among users. At the same time, marketing materials falsely stated that the vaporizers delivered a nicotine dose equal to that of a traditional cigarette.
The e-cigarette lawsuit further contends that JUUL Labs markets its vaping products on Instagram, Twitter, and other social media platforms in an intentional effort to attract underage users. Those campaigns also rely on the same themes successfully employed by Big Tobacco in the past to glamorize smoking and downplay nicotine’s negative health impacts.
The plaintiffs’ daughter was unaware JUUL pods contained nicotine when she began vaping, nor did she realize that vaping would create and sustain a addiction. Occasionally, she would unintentionally swallow the flavored e-liquid. In addition to her alleged addiction, she also suffers from seizures, a known consequence of nicotine ingestion.
The JUUL class action lawsuit was filed one week after Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., announced an investigation of JUUL Lab’s marketing tactics. The Senators also want to know if the company has honored commitments made to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to prevent youth vaping and are seeking information investigating Altria’s recent agreement to purchase a 35% stake in JUUL Labs.
“While JUUL has promised to address youth vaping through its modest voluntary efforts, by accepting $12.8 billion from Altria—a tobacco giant with such a disturbing record of deceptive marketing to hook children onto cigarettes—JUUL has lost what little remaining credibility the company had when it claimed to care about the public health.,” the Senators wrote. “While you and your investors may be perfectly content with hooking an entire new generation of children on your tobacco products in order to increase your profit margins, we will not rest until your dangerous products are out of the hands of our nation’s children.”
Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb accused JUUL Labs of reneging on its commitments in February. That same month, a coalition of 16 conservative and anti-regulatory groups wrote President Trump asking that he “pump the brakes” on the FDA’s efforts to e-cigarettes and other tobacco products. According to The New York Times, JUUL Labs made financial contributions to several of the organizations behind the letter, including Americans for Tax Reform, the R. Street Institute, and the American Legislative Exchange Council Action.