A proposed class action lawsuit filed in Arkansas accuses Juul Labs, Inc. of falsely representing the levels of nicotine in and potential for addiction to e-cigarette products the company is alleged to have aggressively marketed to teenagers.
The lead plaintiff, a minor from Arkansas, says in the lawsuit that he first began using Juul’s vape products at age 14. The plaintiff’s mother, who filed the suit on her son’s behalf, claims he was consuming up to four Juul pods per week when she discovered his vaping addiction. According to the plaintiff’s mother, the minor began to exhibit behavioral changes as a result of his heavy Juul use, including increased irritability, anxiety, physical aggression and weight loss due to a decreased appetite.
According to the case, the adverse effects suffered by the plaintiff are a result of the Juul pods’ high nicotine content and are seemingly common among young vapers. Juul has marketed and designed its products, which deliver large amounts of nicotine quickly and with minimal irritation, to appeal to a younger crowd and to take the place of traditional cigarettes, the complaint says.
Highlighting that Juul’s nicotine pods come in a variety of flavors (another tactic to ostensibly make the product appealing to young people), the lawsuit stresses that the defendant has seized upon—and put a modern spin on—a plethora of Big Tobacco-style marketing campaigns that until recently made no mention of any negative health effects.
“To [the plaintiff], none of the advertisements that he saw discouraged him from using Juul or warned him of the extent of health hazards associated with using Juul,” the lawsuit reads.
The complaint elaborates that the defendant has extensively used social media campaigns, billboards and print ads featuring, among other depictions, young, attractive models using Juul in order to create the image that the vape products are a “fun” status symbol. The defendant has also reportedly hired various social media “influencers” to tacitly endorse its products.
Juul, the case continues, has also allegedly sponsored school programs under the guise of health education for kids as young as third grade. According to the case, the defendant has used these “particularly alarming” programs to market its products as a “totally safe” alternative to cigarettes while falsely claiming that the FDA’s approval of its products was imminent. Moreover, Juul is alleged to have encouraged children to recommend the vape product to their cigarette-addicted friends despite the fact that the FDA has not approved the Juul as a smoking cessation device.
Further still, the case contends that although Juul was forced to include nicotine information on its product labels in 2018 after attempting to conceal such information in the past, the company continues to misrepresent the amount and concentration of nicotine in its e-cigarettes. As the lawsuit tells it, Juul’s practice of marketing its Juulpods as containing the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes gives users the false impression that they’re receiving an equivalent amount of nicotine into their bloodstream. The case stresses, however, that Juulpods contain twice the amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, and that the formulation and concentration of the chemical in Juul’s products is much higher than what’s found in traditional cigarettes.
With regard to the plaintiff, the lawsuit argues Juul is squarely to blame for the minor’s habitual Juul use and any health and monetary consequences he may experience as a result. More from the complaint:
“As a direct and proximate result of Juul Labs’ conduct, [the plaintiff] (i) is addicted to nicotine; (ii) has been exposed to toxic chemicals like formaldehyde and propylene glycol, among others; (iii) has experienced adverse physiological, emotional, and mental changes; and (iv) has sustained economic harm that would not have resulted had Juul Labs informed him of the consequences of using its products.”
The practices alleged in this lawsuit echo the allegations of similar suits filed within the last year. To date, several states have implemented restrictions or bans on flavored nicotine products, which coincide with President Trump’s announcement of a policy that would take flavored e-cigarette products off shelves until they can be approved by the FDA. Most recently, Juul Labs has halted sales of its product online amid further lawsuits from school districts and parents.