State attorneys general from 39 different states have joined together to conduct a joint investigation into the advertising and sales practices of JUUL Labs, the company behind the wildly popular JUUL e-cigarette brand. This new investigation comes amid growing claims that JUUL advertising has been intentionally aimed at teens and prior non-smokers, thereby fueling the ongoing youth vaping epidemic that has swept the country in recent years. The 39-state coalition is being led by the attorneys general from Connecticut, Nevada, Florida and Texas and will investigate JUUL marketing and sales practices over the past several years, as well as statements made by the company regarding the safety, risks and effectiveness of JUUL e-cigarette devices for smoking cessation purposes.
JUUL e-cigarettes are sleek devices designed to look like USB drives, which allows teens and students to hide their vaping habit from parents, teachers and other adults. Since the e-cigarette brand was introduced in 2015, the addictive vape pen has become increasingly popular among teens and young adults, to the extent that youth e-cigarette use in the United States has reached epidemic status. According to a 2019 study on teen e-cigarette use, one in four high school students and one in 10 middle school students in the United States reports vaping with an e-cigarette device in the last month. Critics attribute this widespread use of JUUL vape pens among youth to a deliberate marketing scheme that promoted the use of the controversial e-cigarette devices among young users, thereby creating a new generation of nicotine users that are expected to drive JUUL sales for decades to come.
Despite growing concerns about the risk of nicotine addiction from JUUL and other potent e-cigarette devices, youth e-cigarette use in the U.S. continues to rise, with a more than 30% increase in use from previous years. Even the rash of vaping-related illnesses that has resulted in more than 2,700 hospitalizations and 64 deaths has failed to deter teen e-cigarette users, many of whom believe using e-cigarettes is safer than smoking combustible cigarettes. This is one of the main reasons state attorneys general from 39 states are investigating the advertising of JUUL e-cigarettes. The company has long been suspected of deliberately marketing its e-cigarette devices to teens and young adults and of making false statements about the benefits of JUUL vape pens over smoking cigarettes.
In September 2019, the FDA sent a warning letter to JUUL Labs, citing evidence that representatives of the company had told children at a school presentation that its products were “totally safe,” “much safer than cigarettes” and “a safer alternative than smoking cigarettes,” which has not been proven. The FDA stated in its warning letter that “Our concern is amplified by the epidemic rate of increase in youth use of ENDS [electronic nicotine delivery system] products, including JUUL’s products, and evidence that ENDS products contribute to youth use of, and addiction to, nicotine, to which youth are especially vulnerable.”
“I have long been concerned about how JUUL targets children with their sleek devices and marketing practices,” said Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum in a press release announcing the multistate JUUL investigation. “They have almost singled handily gotten a whole new generation of teens hooked on tobacco. JUUL’s aggressive advertising has significantly contributed to a public health crisis in Oregon and across the country. I am proud that my office has taken a lead role in this investigation, and we will work with the coalition to make sure JUUL is held accountable for their actions.”
The press release also quoted Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, who stated, “We have an epidemic of underaged vaping, not just in Florida, but nationwide. As Florida’s Attorney General and a mother, I cannot sit on the sidelines while this public health epidemic grows, and our next generation becomes addicted to nicotine. That is why we are acting with a sense of urgency in Florida and stepping up to help lead the multistate investigation into JUUL’s role in the underaged vaping epidemic.”
This new investigation into JUUL Labs’ marketing and sales practices was announced just a couple of weeks after the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit against the e-cigarette manufacturer, alleging that the company violated the law by strategically targeting young people with tactics “similar to the tobacco companies’ playbook.” According to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, “There is no proof these e-cigarettes are safe and until there is, we need to get JUUL products off shelves and out of the hands of young people.” Similar lawsuits are being filed by individual e-cigarette users nationwide, accusing JUUL Labs of failing to properly warn consumers about the risk of nicotine addiction and other adverse side effects from JUUL e-cigarette use.