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Attorney General Bob Ferguson today filed a consumer protection lawsuit against e-cigarette company JUUL. Ferguson’s lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court, asserts JUUL violated the state Consumer Protection Act by designing and marketing its products to appeal to underage consumers and deceiving consumers about the addictiveness of its product. JUUL’s unlawful conduct fueled a pervasive and staggering rise in e-cigarette use and nicotine addiction among youth.
In addition, Ferguson’s lawsuit asserts that JUUL failed to meet Washington’s tobacco vapor product licensing requirements. From August 2016 until April 2018, every sale of a JUUL device in Washington was unlawful.
“JUUL put profits before people,” Ferguson said. “Pushing unfair and deceptive marketing strategies appealing to youth, the company fueled a staggering rise in vaping among teens. JUUL’s conduct reversed decades of progress fighting nicotine addiction, and they must be held accountable.”
Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes or vapes, are battery-operated devices that create an inhalable vapor containing nicotine. JUUL’s small, rechargeable e-cigarette device looks similar to a flash drive — they are even charged in a USB port — and are slightly larger than a stick of gum. The device creates vapor by heating up nicotine-infused liquid, contained in disposable cartridge known as a JUUL “pod.”
Upon the launch of the device, the company flooded social media with colorful ads of young-looking models and pushed fruit and dessert flavored products. At the same time, JUUL vehemently denied it marketed to underage users — echoing unlawful strategies used by major cigarette corporations in decades past.
JUUL’s tactics targeting youth were wildly successful. From the product’s launch in 2015 to the end of 2018, JUUL gained control of more than 70 percent of the market share for e-cigarettes.
Meanwhile, use of e-cigarettes among teenagers has skyrocketed. For example, in 2016, 13 percent of high school sophomores in Washington used vaping products. In 2018, that number nearly doubled to 21 percent. In 2011, less than one percent (0.6) of middle schoolers used e-cigarettes. By 2019, one in 10 middle schoolers nationwide used e-cigarettes. This increase is undoing decades of advances in driving down youth smoking rates.
Source: Washington State Attorney General