Massachusetts sues Juul over e-cigarette marketing tactics

  • FILE - In this April 16, 2019 file photo, a woman exhales while vaping from a Juul pen e-cigarette in Vancouver, Wash. On Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020, Massachusetts sued Juul Labs Inc., accusing the company of deliberating targeting young people through its marketing campaigns. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer, File) Craig Mitchelldyer

  • FILE - In this Dec. 20, 2018, file photo, Juul products are displayed at a smoke shop in New York. On Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020, On Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020, Massachusetts sued Juul Labs Inc., accusing the company of deliberating targeting young people through its marketing campaigns. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File) Seth Wenig

Associated Press
Published: 2/12/2020 9:30:59 PM

BOSTON — Massachusetts sued vaping giant Juul Labs Inc. on Wednesday, accusing the company of deliberately targeting young people through its marketing campaigns.

Attorney General Maura Healey’s office said the nation’s biggest e-cigarette maker is responsible for “creating a youth vaping epidemic” with deceptive advertising tactics designed to lure teen users.

“Our message today is simple: Juul can’t profit off the addiction of young people,” Healey said.

Healey announced her investigation into Juul in July 2018 and asked the company to turn over documents to determine whether it was tracking underage use of its products and whether its marketing practices were intentionally driving its popularity among young people.

Similar lawsuits against Juul have been filed in states including Pennsylvania, New York and California.

Juul has said it’s committed to combating underage e-cigarette use and has denied ever targeting teenagers.

“While we have not yet reviewed the complaint, we remain focused on resetting the vapor category in the U.S. and earning the trust of society by working cooperatively with attorneys general, regulators, public health officials, and other stakeholders to combat underage use and transition adult smokers from combustible cigarettes,” Austin Finan, a spokesman for Juul, said in an email.

Juul bought advertisements on websites designed for teens and children, including, and the, as well as sites aimed at helping middle and high school students with math and social studies, according to the lawsuit.

Juul also tried to recruit celebrities and social media influencers who were popular among young people to tout their products, according to the lawsuit.

Healey said her investigation turned up evidence that Juul initially considered a marketing campaign aimed at adults hoping to quit cigarettes, but instead decided to appeal to younger people by using younger models in their ads.

“This isn’t about getting adults to stop smoking cigarettes, it’s about getting young people to start vaping,” Healey said.

Healey said Juul didn’t do enough to block young people from purchasing their products. She said 80% of their email list hadn’t passed age verification.

Efforts to crack down on teen nicotine vaping ramped up last year amid a rash of deaths and illnesses linked to some vaping products. Federal officials have identified a thickening agent added to illicit THC vaping liquids as the culprit behind the “vast majority” of the lung injuries.

The U.S. government began enforcing restrictions this month on flavored e-cigarettes in an effort to curb use among teens.

Menthol and tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes will be allowed to remain on the market.

Juul had already dropped its best-selling mint and most other flavors before the ban was announced in early January and only sells tobacco and menthol.

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