Two Alabama college students have filed a class action lawsuit against JUUL Labs, Inc., alleging the company’s misleading e-cigarette marketing led to their nicotine addictions.
JUUL Labs markets e-cigarette vaporizers that resemble a common USB drive, which allows young people to conceal the devices 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% were unaware that JUUL liquids contained nicotine.
According to a JUUL lawsuit filed on May 22nd in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Alabama, West Division, Elizabeth Ann Swearingen and John Thomas Via Peavy, both 19, did not know JUUL liquids contained nicotine when they first began vaping in high school. (Case No. Case 7:19-cv-00779-LSC)
“Once an accomplished high school cross-country athlete, Swearingen now has trouble breathing during the simplest of tasks,” their complaint states. “Peavy has experienced severe breathing problems after using Juul, including but not limited to severe chest-congestion and decreased appetite.”
Their JUUL lawsuit contends that the e-cigarettes deliver significantly more nicotine than traditional tobacco products. They further assert that JUUL Labs and other defendants intentionally marketed the vaporizers and liquids to teens while concealing the potential for addiction and other serious health risks.
“Mimicking on Big Tobacco’s past marketing practices, defendants prey on youth to recruit replacement smokers for financial gain,” the complaint continues.
The JUUL lawsuit seeks class action status and asserts claims of fraud, liability, negligence, and violation of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.
JUUL Labs is facing similar lawsuits in Florida, California, New York and Pennsylvania. Attorneys General in Massachusetts and North Carolina are also pursuing legal action against the company over its e-cigarette marketing.
In April, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., announced their own investigation into JUUL Lab’s marketing tactics. Their probe will focus on the company’s promised efforts to combat youth vaping and Altria’s recent agreement to purchase a 35% stake in JUUL Labs.