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California Sues Juul Saying Company Marketed Directly to Teens Using ‘Tobacco Industry’s Infamous Playbook’

A woman smokes a Juul e-cigarette. (Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced Monday that the state is suing e-cigarette company Juul Labs Inc. for marketing the product directly to underage teenagers and failing to include health warnings.

California’s lawsuit alleges that the San Francisco-based company, founded in 2015, contributed to a public health epidemic by selling tobacco products directly to minors. The suit also accuses Juul of violating the privacy of minors by sending marketing emails to those who failed the age verification on Juul’s website.

The suit also alleges that Juul neglected to inform consumers about health risks associated with the product, such as chemicals linked to cancer and the potential for reproductive harm.

“Juul adopted the tobacco industry’s infamous playbook, employing advertisements that had no regard for public health and searching out vulnerable targets,” California’s attorney general said in a press release.

Research has shown that, despite the e-cigarette’s original draw as an alternative to traditional cigarettes, “many Juul users continue to smoke cigarettes and that teenagers who were not likely at risk to start smoking cigarettes have done so as a result of their use of nicotine-containing e-cigarettes,” Becerra said. “We’ve worked too hard, committed our hard-earned money for too long combating harmful tobacco use to stand idly by as we now lose Californians to vaping and nicotine addiction.”

A spokesperson for Juul said the company is “focused on resetting the vapor category in the U.S. and earning the trust of society by working cooperatively with with attorneys general, regulators, public health officials, and other stakeholders to combat underage use and convert adult smokers from combustible cigarettes.”

North Carolina was the first state to sue Juul in May over concerns the company catalyzed a teen vaping epidemic in the U.S., and a federal criminal investigation followed in September and is ongoing.

The Trump administration announced a plan in September to move toward a ban of flavored e-cigarettes but backed off the proposal this week, citing significant job losses in the industry.

“Not only is it a problem overall, but really specifically with respect for children,” Trump said in August. “We may very well have to do something very, very strong about it.”

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