Source: Associated Press News
Electronic cigarette maker Juul Labs has agreed to pay nearly $440 million to settle a two-year investigation by 33 states into the marketing of its high-nicotine vaping products, which have long been blamed for sparking a national surge in teen vaping.
The 33-state investigation found that Juul marketed its e-cigarettes to underage teens with launch parties, product giveaways and ads and social media posts using youthful models, according to a statement. Jull still faces nine separate lawsuits from other states.
Teen use of e-cigarettes skyrocketed in the years following Juul’s 2015 launch, leading the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to declare an “epidemic” of underage vaping among young people. Health experts said the unprecedented increase risked hooking a generation of young people on nicotine.
The FDA moved to ban all Juul e-cigarettes from the market. Juul challenged that ruling in court, and the FDA has since reopened its scientific review into the company’s technology. The FDA review is part of a sweeping effort by regulators to bring scrutiny to the multibillion-dollar vaping industry after years of delays.
The agency has authorized a handful of e-cigarettes from Juul’s competitors for adult smokers looking for a less harmful alternative to cigarettes. Juul has since shifted to pitching its product as an alternative nicotine source for older smokers. “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 initially sold its high-nicotine pods in flavors like mango, mint and cream. The products became a scourge in U.S. high schools, with students vaping in bathrooms and hallways between classes. But recent federal survey data shows that teens have been shifting away from the company. Many teens who vape now prefer disposable e-cigarettes, some of which continue to be sold in sweet, fruity flavors.
Overall, the survey showed a drop of nearly 40% in the teen vaping rate as many kids were forced to learn from home during the pandemic. Still, federal officials cautioned about interpreting the results given they were collected online for the first time, instead of in classrooms.
The settlement, which includes numerous restrictions on how Juul can market its products, resolves one of the biggest legal threats facing the beleaguered company, Juul previously settled lawsuits in Arizona, Louisiana, North Carolina and Washington. Additionally, Juul faces hundreds of personal lawsuits brought on behalf of teenagers and others who say they became addicted to the company’s vaping products.
The company currently makes up about one third of the U.S. retail vaping market, down from 75% several years ago.