NEW YORK — New York state is hitting e-cigarette company JUUL with a new lawsuit, alleging the company played a role in the “ongoing youth vaping epidemic in New York,” according to a statement from the attorney general.
New York Attorney General Letitia James announced the lawsuit Tuesday, which was filed in New York County Supreme Court, accusing JUUL of “deceptive and misleading marketing of its e-cigarettes.”
James’ office claims JUUL’s ad campaign featuring bright, colorful images of attractive, young models appealed to underage kids.
“There can be no doubt that JUUL’s aggressive advertising has significantly contributed to the public health crisis that has left youth in New York and across the country addicted to its products,” said James.
In a statement to PIX11, JUUL said the company had recently suspended advertising and is cooperating with officials.
“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 by working cooperatively with attorneys general, regulators, public health officials, and other stakeholders to combat underage use and convert adult smokers from combustible cigarettes. As part of that process, we recently stopped accepting orders for our Mint JUULpods in the U.S., suspended all broadcast, print, and digital product advertising in the U.S. and are investing in scientific research to ensure the quality of our FDA Premarket Tobacco Product Application (PMTA) application and expanding our commitment to develop new technology to reduce youth use. Our customer base is the world’s 1 billion adult smokers and we do not intend to attract underage users.”
As of Nov. 13, the CDC says 42 deaths have been attributed to vaping in 24 states, though CDC data suggests “products containing THC, particularly from informal sources like friends, or family, or in-person or online dealers, are linked to most of the cases and play a major role in the outbreak.”
JUUL recently discontinued the sale of many flavored vaping products , which were often linked to youth use.
James’ lawsuit isn’t the only example of legal action taken against JUUL, with various suits filed by vape users, or their parents or guardians, primarily focused on product safety and adverse health affects caused by nicotine addiction and exploding batteries, according to ConsumerSafety.org.
California sued the company on Monday, and North Carolina in May. Illinois, Massachusetts and several other states are also investigating Juul, which James said represents 70% of the e-cigarette market.
In the latest government survey, one in four high school students reported using e-cigarettes the previous month, despite federal law banning sales to those under 18.
“Juul basically took a page from Big Tobacco’s playbook,” James, New York state’s highest-ranking law enforcement official, told a news conference at her Manhattan office.
The New York suit requires Juul to stop targeting minors and pay fines for various alleged violations.
The attorney general said the death of a 17-year-old boy in the Bronx, linked to vaping, spurred her to file the lawsuit.
“As a result of all of their advertising, a significant number of young people thought that e-cigarettes were safe,” James said.
She said other companies that produce e-cigarettes may be targeted in the future, including one that partly owns Juul.