In early September, e-cigarette manufacturer Juul Labs agreed to settle with 34 states and territories over the marketing of its vaping products. These states, which include Connecticut and the territory of Puerto Rico, have been investigating Juul Labs for two years into their marketing practices. Many states allege that Juul Labs has been using inappropriate marketing and promotional tactics, targeting youth not old enough to purchase vaping products legally. Additionally, the vaping manufacturer downplayed the addictive qualities of their products, which contain highly-addictive nicotine.
Connecticut led the Juul investigation and negotiations along with Texas and Oregon. Connecticut Attorney General William Tong made the announcement regarding this settlement on September 6. The agreement will restrict how Juul can promote its products and is worth almost $440 million, which will be paid out over six to ten years. Connecticut’s share of the agreed funds will be earmarked for vaping prevention and education campaigns.
During the investigation, it was determined that Juul marketed its e-cigarettes to underaged youth. By using social media posts featuring youthful models, ads, product giveaways and launch parties, Juul targeted advertising channels where those underage youth consume media. In a press conference about the Juul settlement, Tong said, “They didn’t focus on television, print, radio, traditional media that gets at people like us – right? – with some gray hair. What they did was they focused on other outlets, including Instagram, TikTok, to a lesser degree, Facebook.”
The states and territories involved in the settlement include: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Also, as part of the settlement, Juul has agreed to refrain from:
- Youth marketing
- Funding education programs
- Depicting persons under age 35 in any marketing
- Use of cartoons
- Paid product placement
- Sale of brand name merchandise
- Sale of flavors not approved by the FDA
- Allowing access to websites without age verification on landing page
- Representations about nicotine not approved by FDA
- Misleading representations about nicotine content
- Sponsorships/naming rights
- Advertising in outlets unless 85 percent audience is adult
- Advertising on billboards
- Public transportation advertising
- Social media advertising (other than testimonials by individuals over the age of 35, with no health claims)
- Use of paid influencers
- Direct-to-consumer ads unless age-verified, and
- Free samples.
Other Juul Lawsuits and Settlements
North Carolina was the first state in the nation to successfully hold Juul accountable for its role in spiking teen use and dependence on e-cigarettes. In June 2021, Juul agreed to pay North Carolina $40 million over six years. North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein announced the settlement. This agreement forced Juul to pay the settlement fine and change how it does business in North Carolina. It prohibits Juul from marketing its products to those under the age of 21 and forbids Juul from using anyone under 35 in its marketing and advertisements. As part of this agreement, the company must stop most of its social media advertising, sponsoring music and sporting events and outdoor advertising near schools. The funds from this agreement will go towards supporting kids affected by vaping and preventing addiction. Juul denied any wrongdoing or liability in the agreement.
In November 2021, the e-cigarette manufacturer agreed to pay Arizona $14.5 million. Attorney General Mark Brnovich shared this statement, “Today’s settlement holds Juul accountable for its irresponsible marketing efforts that pushed Arizona minors toward nicotine and the addiction that follows.” The state will use the majority of the funds from this agreement in campaigns against smoking, vaping and addictions. Two million dollars will go into a fund for consumer fraud investigations.
In April 2022, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced that his state would receive $22.5 million from Juul over the next four years. Ferguson shared that Juul “put profits before people.” The vaping giant used promotional tactics that targeted teens and deceived customers about how addictive their products were.
Juul has reached settlements with 37 states and Puerto Rico, but separate lawsuits are before the courts regarding how the electronic cigarette manufacturer promoted its products. Teenagers, their parents and guardians, and those who claim to be addicted to Juul’s vaping products have brought personal lawsuits against the e-cigarette manufacturer. It is estimated that the number of cases facing Juul Labs will continue to grow.
How the FDA Is Dealing with Juul
At the launch of Juul, the vaping manufacturer offered vaping products in trendy flavors like cream, mango and mint, amongst others. It is believed that their product lineup became popular with youth, who liked the youthful flavors. In 2019, Juul stopped selling dessert and fruit flavors, and the e-cigarette manufacturer suspended all broadcast, digital and print product advertising across the country.
However, on June 23, 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ordered Juul to stop selling and distributing all of its products being marketed in the U.S. Following the FDA’s order, Juul appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The appeals court ruled to block the FDA’s ban temporarily. As a result, the FDA placed its own temporary stay on the order to ban Juul’s products, saying that Juul’s application warranted “additional review.” The FDA stay temporarily suspends the Juul marketing denial order during the additional review but does not rescind it.
Juul can continue to offer its products to adult smokers while pursuing the FDA’s internal review process. Joe Murillo, Chief Regulatory Officer at Juul Labs, stated, “We remain confident in the quality and substance of our applications and believe that ultimately we will be able to demonstrate that our products do in fact meet the statutory standard of being appropriate for the protection of the public health. We now look forward to re-engaging with the FDA on a science- and evidence-based process to pursue a marketing authorization for JUUL products.”