WEDNESDAY, Sept. 7, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Juul Labs said Tuesday it will pay $438.5 million, with no admission of wrongdoing, to settle dozens of lawsuits filed over company practices that may go that far fueled widespread vaping among American teenagers.
“This 34-state and territory agreement is an essential part of our continued commitment to address historical issues,” the company said in a statement. “With today’s announcement, we reached agreement with 37 states and Puerto Rico and appreciate the efforts of attorneys general to devote resources to address underage use.”
Connecticut Attorney General William Tong welcomed the news.
“We believe this will go a long way in stemming the tide of vaping among youth,” Tong said during a news briefing on Tuesday. “We are under no illusions and cannot claim that it will discourage the youth from vaping. It remains an epidemic. It’s still a big problem. But we essentially took away a large chunk of the former leader.”
Meanwhile, the US Food and Drug Administration is still deciding whether to allow Juul to sell its products in this country. After the agency issued a ban on the company’s vapor products in June, Juul appealed the decision and the court ruled that the company could continue to sell some of its products until the appeal was heard in court.
In the most recent investigation, conducted by about three dozen states, Juul was found to appeal to young people with its teenage models, free e-cigarette samples, and flavors like crème brûlée and mango. Additionally, approximately 45% of the company’s Twitter followers were between the ages of 13 and 17.
Tuesday’s settlement would ban Juul from practices that include marketing to youth, funding education in schools or misrepresenting the nicotine content of its products, though the company has already changed some of its operations following pressure from parents and officials.
Severance payments are paid over six to 10 years new York Times reported. In Connecticut, the state plans to use its $16 million cut for smoking cessation, nicotine and addiction programs. Texas gets $43 million. Virginia gets $16.6 million.
“It was Juul who showed up and opened this horrible Pandora’s box,” said Meredith Berkman, co-founder of Parents Against Vaping E-Cigarettes Times. “No amount of money can undo the damage caused by Juul’s targeting and marketing to teenagers, whose use of the company’s stealth-by-design flavored products caused many children to experience severe nicotine addiction and physical harm.”
Berkman joined the group in 2018 after her ninth-grade son came home from school and spoke about a Juul representative speaking at a school assembly who described its products as “perfectly safe.”
The group has heard from hundreds of families who say their children have become addicted to vaping from Juul and similar devices, Berkman said, with some teens becoming seriously ill.
A recent survey by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points to new problems: While fewer high school students are now using e-cigarettes, products from Puff Bar, which makes candy- and fruit-flavored vapes, are now the favorite.
The FDA continues to try to curb new products in candy flavors and colors, although some companies have switched to selling synthetic nicotine, which was only regulated in March when Congress gave the FDA the power to regulate synthetic nicotine products. The agency is still reviewing about a million applications it received this spring from manufacturers of non-tobacco nicotine products Times reported.
States involved in this recent settlement are Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Juul formerly settled with North Carolina, Washington, Louisiana and Arizona.
Nine other lawsuits remain, including in New York and California, which Times said. Approximately 3,600 lawsuits in California were consolidated representing individuals, school districts and local governments.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on e-cigarettes.