Embattled Juul Labs, Inc. has been hit with another proposed class action, this time filed by a Louisiana mother on behalf of her 14-year-old son who she says has become addicted to nicotine due to the e-cigarette maker’s deceptive marketing practices.
Embattled Juul Labs, Inc. has been hit with another proposed class action lawsuit, this time filed by a Louisiana mother on behalf of her 14-year-old son who she says has become addicted to nicotine due to the e-cigarette maker’s deceptive marketing practices. The case alleges that Juul and co-defendants Altria Group and Philip Morris USA pulled marketing tactics straight out of Big Tobacco’s playbook in order to prey on the youth population and secure lifetime customers.
According to the complaint, Juul Labs designed its popular e-cigarette products to deliver higher doses of nicotine than traditional cigarettes while providing “almost no throat irritation.” The products were allegedly represented as a “safe alternative to smoking,” with the company claiming that each Juul pod—the cartridge containing Juul’s patented nicotine solution—delivered roughly the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. The lawsuit argues, however, that these representations were misleading in that Juul failed to disclose that its pods contain a higher concentration of nicotine than cigarettes and that the chemical is delivered to the body in a way that “renders it more harmful and addictive than cigarettes.”
Even further, the lawsuit argues that the defendants—among whom are Philip Morris, the company behind the Marlboro brand of cigarettes, and parent company Altria Group, which recently acquired a 35-percent stake in Juul Labs—have used banned Big Tobacco techniques to specifically target minors, sparking what the FDA has referred to as an “epidemic” of e-cigarette consumption among young people. Coupled with “catchy” social media advertising campaigns, Juul’s “candy-like” flavors were meant to capture the attention and appeal of young people, the case says. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the number of middle school and high school tobacco users ballooned to 4.9 million in 2018, which the suit asserts is a direct result of Juul Labs’ aggressive marketing.
As the lawsuit tells it, absent from Juul’s pervasive youth-focused marketing was any mention of the potential health consequences associated with nicotine consumption. From the lawsuit:
“Based upon information and belief, these problems include, but are not limited to, long-term nicotine addiction; increased risk of heart disease and stroke; changes in brain function leading to increased susceptibility to anxiety, depression and other addictions; decreased function of the endocrine system; heightened risk of cancer; and negative effects on fertility.”
The filing of the case coincides with a proposed class action filed by a New Jersey man over allegations that his 16-year-old son has suffered “daily coughing and vomiting” as a result of nicotine addiction after using a Juul product for two years.
Juul Labs has not only been the subject of multiple lawsuits but has come under heavy government scrutiny for its marketing practices and the addictive nature of its products. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning letter to Juul Labs on September 9, 2019 in which the agency declared Juul’s products to be “adulterated.” The FDA warned that the company was representing its e-cigarettes as a “modified risk tobacco product” despite not having FDA approval for such labeling and advertising.
On September 16, 2019, New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced a plan to pursue emergency regulations that would ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes in New York just days after President Trump declared plans to outlaw the products nationwide. New York would be the second state, following Michigan, to take such action in response to what Governor Cuomo called “a burgeoning health crisis.”