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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."

Go deeper: Juul's very bad, no good rotten year

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments — Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: Biden admin withdraws temporary vaccine-or-test mandate for large employers — New York Supreme Court strikes down Gov. Hochul's mask mandate for public areas — Sarah Palin tests positive, delaying defamation trial — Virginia school boards sue Gov. Youngkin for lifting mask mandate.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker

The Robinhood M&A rumor mill churns

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Robinhood's valuation is now just over $11 billion, a fraction of where it traded in August and below that of its last private round of funding. Cue the M&A mongers.

Why it matters: It's not just Robinhood—falling values of growth-oriented tech stocks have raised speculation that formerly high-flying fintechs could be snapped up by more well-capitalized buyers.

4 hours ago - Health

Student's death renews calls for schools to stock opioid overdose drug

Photo: Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

A Connecticut student's death has renewed calls for schools to stock and administer naloxone, a drug that can quickly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

Why it matters: U.S. drug overdose fatalities reached six figures in a 12-month period for the first time in November, and synthetic or natural opioids were the cause of a majority of the overdoses.