Dec 18, 2019 - Health

Juul accused in Bay Area school districts' lawsuits of targeting minors

Juul products are displayed at Smoke and Gift Shop on October 17, 2019 in San Francisco, California.

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Five Bay Area school districts filed separate lawsuits against Juul Labs in San Francisco's federal district court Tuesday, alleging the e-cigarette maker has been targeting minors.

Why it matters: It's the latest litigation against Juul to make such allegations. New York filed a lawsuit last month accusing it of preying on and misleading teenagers with its ads and for failing to warn about potential health risks associated with using its products.

  • School districts on Long Island and in Olathe, Kansas, and St. Charles, Missouri, filed suits against Juul "accusing it of endangering students and forcing educators to divert time and money to fight an epidemic of nicotine addiction," the New York Times reported in October.

Details: Per a statement sent to news outlets including Axios, the lawsuits filed by the school districts and also the San Mateo Office of Education and its superintendent seek damages for marketing efforts that "specifically targeted" youth under 18 with advertising and messaging "designed to appeal to minors."

  • "The districts also hope to change Juul's marketing practices that encourage youth to become addicted to their products," according to the statement.

The big picture: The lawsuits come as health officials and lawmakers treat teen vaping as an epidemic, with President Trump expressing concern and weighing raising the minimum age for e-cigarette purchases to 21.

  • Juul is also facing a wrongful death lawsuit and litigation from a former company executive alleging it sent to market at least "one million mint-flavored e-cigarette nicotine pods that it admits were contaminated."
  • The company denies any wrongdoing.

What they're saying: A Juul Labs spokesperson said in a statement emailed to Axios in response to the latest litigation, "We remain focused on resetting the vapor 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."

  • The spokesperson said the firm had stopped accepting orders as part of this process for its Mint JUULpods in the U.S. and suspended all broadcast, print and digital product advertising in the U.S.
  • Juul is "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," the spokesperson said.
  • "Our customer base is the world’s 1 billion adult smokers and we do not intend to attract underage users. To the extent these cases allege otherwise, they are without merit," per the Juul spokesperson.

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