Updated Feb 12, 2020 - Health

Juul bought ads on Cartoon Network and youth sites, lawsuit claims

Massachussetts Attorney General Maura Healey. Photo John Blanding/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. Photo John Blanding/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Juul Labs paid a company to place ads on student-focused websites including the Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon and Seventeen magazine, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.

Why it matters: The suit, based on the findings of a two-year investigation, contradicts the e-cigarette company’s denial that it sought out teenagers to buy its products.

“Juul is responsible for the millions of young people nationwide addicted to e-cigarettes, reversing decades of progress combatting underage tobacco.”
— Maura Healey said in a press conference Wednesday

Background: Healey opened an investigation into Juul in 2018 over concerns about the marketing and sale of e-cigarettes to minors. The claims in the filing are the strongest to date confirming Juul's influence on young people.

The filing:

  • Juul rejected initial marketing pitches from an ad company that touted the sleek, technological design of its devices for adults. Instead, the filing shows marketing images of stylish, young models vaping.
  • The complaint alleges Juul sent e-cigarettes to consumers who provided student email addresses at high schools.
  • The investigation also revealed an email from 2018 in which a Juul customer service representative instructed a student on how to get around age restrictions for online buying.

The big picture: Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Illinois, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania have sued Juul over its marketing practices.

  • The federal government raised the age to buy tobacco products to 21 and limited sales of some flavored e-cigarette products. Massachusetts passed several laws affecting the e-cigarette industry, effective June 1.

The other side, per Juul's senior director of communications Austin Finan:

“While we have not yet reviewed the complaint, we remain focused on resetting the vapor category in the U.S. and earning the trust of society...
"As part of that process in the U.S., we are preparing comprehensive and scientifically rigorous Premarket Tobacco Product Applications, stopped the sale of flavored pods other than Tobacco and Menthol in November, halted our television, print and digital product advertising, implemented a $1 billion restructuring plan, refrained from lobbying the Administration on its draft flavor guidance and support the final policy. Our customer base is the world’s 1 billion adult smokers and we do not intend to attract underage users."

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