By Jody Coultas, J.D.
The complaint alleges that the company’s advertising campaign misrepresented its product as a safer alternative to cigarettes.
The New York Attorney General’s Office announced today that it has filed a lawsuit against e-cigarette company JUUL Labs, Inc. alleging that the company’s deceptive marketing has caused a "youth vaping epidemic" in the state. The complaint alleges that JUUL illegally targeted its products to minors, failed to warn that they contained nicotine, and misrepresented that e-cigarettes are a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes. The lawsuit alleges that JUUL’s conduct violated Sections 349 and 350 of the New York General Business Law, and that violations of federal laws, including the FTC Act and the Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act, amounted to additional violations of state law (State of New York v. JUUL Labs, Inc., November 19, 2019).
JUUL, which has an estimated valuation of $38 billion, launched its product in New York using ad campaigns featuring young, attractive models and social media hashtags. The advertising and social media posts allegedly misled consumers about the content of its products and failed to warn that they contain nicotine. The products also came in a number of different flavors attractive to younger users. JUUL now sells only tobacco and menthol JUUL pods.
The state also contends that JUUL’s social media presence focuses heavily on attracting young audiences. A 2018 study found that approximately 45 percent of the individuals who were following the official @JUULvapor Twitter account in April 2018 were between the ages of 13 and 17, while only 20 percent of followers were 21 or over.
The complaint also alleges that JUUL engaged in direct outreach to high school students, including in at least one New York City school, where a JUUL representative falsely stated to high school freshmen that its products were safer than cigarettes.
The New York State Department of Health estimates that 220,000 New York residents under the age of 18 use e-cigarettes on a regular basis. There have been 42 deaths and 2,172 cases of severe vaping-related illnesses nationwide, including 146 cases in New York. In October 2019, a 17-year-old male from the Bronx died due to a vaping-related illness, making that the first reported vaping-related fatality in New York, and the youngest vaping-related fatality in the United States, according to the state.
The attorney general is seeking a permanent injunction, the creation of an abatement fund with sufficient capital to eliminate the public nuisance it is responsible for creating, exacerbating, and/or perpetuating, a civil penalty of $5,000 for each instance of a deceptive or unlawful act or practice, restitution and damages, and other just relief.
Companies: JUUL Labs, Inc.
MainStory: TopStory Advertising NewYorkNews StateUnfairTradePractices
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