Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul announced today his office has filed a lawsuit against the nation’s largest manufacturer of e-cigarettes.
Raoul filed the lawsuit today in Cook County Circuit Court against California-based JUUL Labs, Inc. (JUUL).
Raoul was joined today by physicians and public health advocates in a press conference to announce the Complaint that Alleges JUUL’s Marketing Targeted Minors & Deceptively Advertised Products as Smoking Cessation Devices.
“My office has filed a lawsuit against JUUL for targeting it’s product to minors, misrepresenting the potency of the nicotine in it’s devices and misrepresenting the ability of JUUL devices to help people quit smoking.
But let’s be clear, the lawsuit is one part of what must be a multi-faceted approach, to address the epidemic levels of e-cigarette usage. My office is also focusing on policy changes, and enforcement actions that will build on the work we are announcing today. Holding the industry accountable for it’s role in undoing the work that has been done to lower the youth smoking rates, must be a comprehensive solution ”
Raoul’s announcement states that JUUL’s e-cigarette device resembles a USB flash drive, can be charged via a USB port, and can be used discreetly, all features that make JUUL’s device more appealing to youth. Raoul’s complaint alleges that further attracting youth smokers is the special nicotine blend developed by JUUL, which contains much higher nicotine content, with a flavor that is less harsh and masked by other flavors such as mint, menthol, mango and crème brûlée, which makes JUUL more appealing to less experienced smokers.
According to Raoul’s complaint, JUUL launched an aggressive marketing campaign focused on youth by peppering social media websites with images of celebrities and influencers using its products. And that JUUL touted its device as being the “iPhone of e-cigarettes”.
Raoul also is accusing JUUL of ignoring warnings that the flawed age verification system on its online store allowed minors to purchase JUUL’s products.
Dr. Ngozi Ezeke, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health says that youth vaping is a growing epidemic in the U.S and in Illinois.
“We have a growing epidemic as the rates of youth nicotine use start to soar. In June of 2018, in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, it was reported that e-cigarette use increased 900% among middle and high school students from 2011 to 2015. In 2008 to 2018, traditional cigarette smoking among high school seniors decreased from 21% to just under 5%. But in the same 2018, e-cigarette use in Illinois was at 26%.”
Ezeke says that to date in Illinois, there have been 201 confirmed cases of lung injuries associated with vaping, with five deaths occurring in the state. Ezeke says that the median age of the reported cases is 22 years old, and that those numbers are only the confirmed cases that have sought medical treatment and been hospitalized.
In the lawsuit, Raoul is seeking to permanently enjoin JUUL from engaging in unfair and deceptive practices and hold JUUL accountable for its role in the youth e-cigarette epidemic. Raoul is also seeking a civil penalty of $50,000 per deceptive or unfair act or practice and an additional $50,000 for each act or practice committed with the intent to defraud.