The attorney general of North Carolina, Josh Stein, has filed a lawsuit alleging that JUUL’s advertising and marketing practices are unfair and deceptive in violation of North Carolina law. Citing statistics showing the dramatic increase in e-cigarette use, especially JUUL e-cigarettes, among teens, the complaint states that while “JUUL has long claimed that its e-cigarettes are intended only for adult smokers seeking to transition away from traditional cigarettes …. The facts tell a very different – and sobering – story: teens aged 15 to 17 are far more likely to use JUUL than JUUL’s supposed target demographic of 25- 34-year-olds.”
The complaint then ties JUUL’s widespread use among children to various actions of JUUL, including: developing desert and fruit-like flavors; manipulating the chemical content of the e-cigarettes “to make the vapor less harsh on the throats of young and inexperienced smokers”; and creating a design for its smoking devices that is easily concealable. Additionally, “JUUL has consciously chosen social media platforms and marketing channels that are known to attract minors” and JUUL sold its e-cigarettes online, relying “on age-verification techniques that it knows are ineffective.” Moreover, the complaint alleges that JUUL had “also routinely understated the strength of the nicotine in its products and downplayed their health risks,” noting that the levels of nicotine in JUUL products is so high that "in some countries, it is illegal for consumers of any age.”
The complaint requests among other things, injunctive relief prohibiting JUUL from: selling e-cigarette products to minors; selling flavors other than tobacco or menthol; sending marketing emails to any minors; and advertising in any media that primarily targets consumers under 30 years of age. AG Stein is also requesting civil penalties and disgorgement of JUUL’s profits. In a later interview, Stein acknowledged that JUUL has voluntary undertaken some of these measures but noted that these voluntary actions could be reversed by JUUL at any time. “That's why I want a court to order JUUL to stop selling, to stop marketing, and to stop distributing to young people,” Stein said.