North Carolina sues Juul over ‘downplaying’ danger

By Deanna Paul | Washington Post

North Carolina Attorney General Joshua Stein filed a lawsuit Wednesday against popular e-cigarette producer Juul Labs, making it the first state to take legal action against the company.

The suit, filed in state court, alleges that Juul caused addiction in consumers by “deceptively downplaying the potency and danger of the nicotine” and employed advertising campaigns that targeted people under the legal smoking age.

Several of the state’s requests overlap with existing Food and Drug Administration policies, including prohibiting the sale of e-cigarette products to minors. But the state’s complaint goes further: FDA guidelines restrict the sale of e-cigarettes with fruit or candy flavors in stores, allowing menthol, tobacco and mint to be sold. North Carolina’s request would bar the mint flavor there, in addition to the popular flavors like mango and cucumber.

All Juul flavors can be purchased online after customers verify their age on the Juul website. Stein hopes to restrict those sales, too, by preventing all customers in North Carolina from purchasing flavors online that aren’t tobacco or menthol.

And the state is asking the court to apply a marketing and advertising ban that mimics that of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement that went into effect in 1998. It would prevent the company from emails, advertising or social media marketing aimed at minors. It also asks the court to block Juul from advertising outdoors and near schools or playgrounds; sponsoring “sports, entertainment, or charity events”; offering free or discounted samples; or promoting products with fashion or media outlets that primarily target consumers under 30.

“Addicting a new generation of teenagers is unacceptable, illegal, and that’s why I’m taking action,” Stein told The Washington Post. “This is about a company that is selling its product predominantly to (youths). There has to be some limitation on the way they do business.”

“I certainly would welcome any state that wants to bring a similar action,” he added.

In a statement to The Post on Wednesday, a Juul spokesman said, “While we have not yet seen the complaint, we share the Attorney General’s concerns about youth vaping, which is why we have been cooperating with his office and why we have taken the most aggressive actions of anyone in the industry to combat youth usage.”

In the past year, Juul ceased the sale of all flavors besides tobacco, menthol and mint to traditional retail stores. The company enhanced its online age-verification process and shut down its Facebook and Instagram accounts. Juul says it also revamped its marketing and commercial campaigns, strengthened its retailer compliance program with more than 2,000 secret shopper visits per month and led industry support of state-based Tobacco 21 laws, which raise to 21 the legal minimum age for all tobacco products.

According to Scott Gottlieb, a former FDA commissioner, attorneys general have an important role to play in keeping nicotine products away from children and teens.

“(Nicotine addiction) is becoming a big enough health problem that even states are going to feel it,” he said, noting the fiscal and public health impact on …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Business


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