Juul is staring down yet another lawsuit.
California officials announced Monday that the state has a lawsuit filed alleging that Juul marketed its products to teens and youth. It did this through, among other things, its social media campaigns, ads and marketing, influencers who promoted its products, language that caught on with younger demographics like â€œJuuling,â€ and launching fruity flavours that appealed to kids, according to the complaint filed in Alameda County Superior Court. Further, it alleges that the company marketed to kids who the company knew were underage because they had failed age verification systems. JUUL Labs, Inc., is identified in the complaint as â€œJLIâ€:
On information and belief, JLI violated the privacy rights of California minors by directly marketing and advertising JUUL tobacco products to children that it knew were minors because those individuals had failed JLIâ€™s own age verification. Despite JLIâ€™s knowledge that specific individuals had failed age verification, JLI used information specific to these minors, such as personal email addresses, to directly market and advertise JUUL tobacco products to minors via email. Despite knowing that young people who had not passed age verification were receiving JLI marketing and advertising materials, JLI did not correct this issue.
In addition to direct marketing to young people that the company allegedly knew were not of legal age, Juul also omitted important heath and product information about its e-cigarettes in marketing emails. According to the complaint, early marketing emails did not include any information about nicotine content or the fact that itâ€™s addictive. Moreover, one email sent in 2016 is cited as telling recipients that â€œâ€¦just holding it makes you feel awesome. And then you take a drag of one of the JUULâ€™s flavoursâ€”â€œmiint,â€ â€œbruule,â€ â€œtabaac,â€ or â€œfruutâ€â€”and you feel even better.â€
E-cigarette company Juul billed itself as an evolution in smoking cessation and has largely been recast in the court of public opinion as a wildly effective new tool for addicting kids to nicotine. The Wall Street Journal today reported that the company is trying to cut back, though.Read more
In a statement by email, Juul spokesman Austin Finan told Gizmodo that the company has â€œnot yet reviewed the complaintâ€ but said that that Juul remains â€œfocused on resetting the vapour category in the U.S. and earning the trust of society by working cooperatively with attorneys general, regulators, public health officials, and other stakeholders to combat underage use and convert adult smokers from combustible cigarettes.â€
â€œAs part of that process, we recently stopped accepting orders for our Mint JUULpods in the U.S., suspended all broadcast, print, and digital product advertising in the U.S. and are investing in scientific research to ensure the quality of our FDA Premarket Tobacco Product Application (PMTA) application and expanding our commitment to develop new technology to reduce youth use,â€ Finan said. â€œOur customer base is the worldâ€™s 1 billion adult smokers and we do not intend to attract underage users.â€œ
Juulâ€”which has been roundly halted all marketing of its products in the U.S.
But no one gets points for discontinuing their efforts to commit crimes and investigations into the companyâ€™s early marketing schemes have dogged the company, as have lawsuits. One filed just weeks ago alleged that Juul shipped one million contaminated pods earlier this year and failed to notify its customers. And now, itâ€™s being sued by the state where itâ€™s headquartered.
â€œWeâ€™ve worked too hard, committed our hard-earned money for too long combatting harmful tobacco use to stand idly by as we now lose Californians to vaping and nicotine addiction,â€ Attorney General Becerra said in a statement. â€œJUUL adopted the tobacco industryâ€™s infamous playbook, employing advertisements that had no regard for public health and searching out vulnerable targets. Today we take legal action against the deceptive practices that JUUL and the e-cigarette industry employ to lure our kids into their vaping web. We will hold JUUL and any other company that fuels a public health crisis accountable.â€