May 17, 2023 - Health

Juul to pay Minnesota $60.5 million in teen vaping lawsuit settlement

juul boxes on a shelf

Packages of Juul e-cigarettes are displayed for sale. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Juul Labs and Altria will pay the state of Minnesota $60.5 million in what state officials hailed as the largest per-capita teen vaping settlement to date.

Why it matters: The bulk of the money is expected to go toward education and prevention programs aimed at curbing teen tobacco use, state officials said.

The big picture: Juul has now agreed to pay more than $1 billion in settlements with dozens of states and territories over claims that the vaping company targeted youth in its marketing.

What they're saying: Attorney General Keith Ellison, who filed the lawsuit in 2019, said the amount secured is "larger than all of the money Juul made in Minnesota between 2015 and 2021."

  • "If they got paid by selling deceptive and harmful products to our kids, we got our money back," he said.

The other side: A Juul spokesperson referred Axios to the company's April statement on the settlement, which said "resolution of issues from the company’s past and its historical legal challenges has remained a critical priority to secure certainty for our future."

  • "As we reach total resolution of the company's past, we are focused on our path forward to maximize the value and impact of our product technology and scientific foundation," the statement read.
  • Altria, which was added as a co-defendant in 2020 after it obtained a stake in the company, said "resolving this case is in the best interest of Altria and our shareholders and have agreed to settle it to avoid the costs and uncertainty of further litigation."
  • The company, which no longer has an economic interest in Juul, said it believes "the claims asserted against us in this and other Juul-related litigation are without merit.”

Details: In addition to the money, which will be paid over eight years, the settlement requires that Juul publicly release "internal documents related to the litigation," a move Ellison said will bring "a lot of sunlight" to the company's practices.

  • It also bans Juul from advertising on apparel, entertainment and social media platforms and mandates the creation of a retail compliance program related to age verification.
  • Additional restrictions target sponsored events, flavored products and the use of free samples.

Of note: About $17 million of the settlement will go toward legal costs incurred by the state and the outside counsel it hired to help with the case.

Between the lines: Minnesota, which initially sought $100 million from the companies, was the first state to bring its lawsuit to trial.

  • The settlement was announced in mid-April, as closing arguments were about to begin. Under the terms, details were kept confidential for 30 days.

Flashback: Minnesota reached a landmark $6.5 billion settlement with big tobacco companies in 1998. That agreement also included document disclosure.

What's next: The Legislature is working on a bill authorizing the state to spend the money.

  • Under the terms, more than a third of the payout — $22.75 million — must be transferred within 30 days. Sixty percent of it will be paid within a year.

The bottom line: Public health advocates are hopeful the money will help reverse a recent uptick in teen e-cigarette use.

  • "We know what works," Laura Oliven, a tobacco control manager with the Minnesota Department of Health, said. "So with these funds, we will be able to do intensive, dedicated work and reverse these rates."

More coverage: What's next for Juul after settlements


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