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Juul settles in cases over company marketing policies

The e-cigarette manufacturer Juul has reached settlements covering more than 5,000 cases with nearly 10,000 plaintiffs following three years of legal fights over how the company’s marketing appealed to youths.

Juul did not reveal an amount, but a portion of the national settlement money will come to West Virginia schools to support programs that fight nicotine addiction.

“The school boards will be able to reimburse themselves for prevention treatment and, most importantly, the expenditures they’ve had to lay out for these monitors they’ve had to put in school bathrooms,” said Charleston attorney Rusty Webb, who represented 20 school systems in West Virginia.

“It would also allow them to do abatement in the future, which would allow the schools that haven’t put the monitors in their school bathrooms and their buses monies to do so.”

Plaintiffs in a multidistrict case contended that Juul Labs Inc. marketed its products in a manner designed to attract minors with flavors like mango, mint and creme brulee.

They also alleged that the marketing misrepresents or omits that Juul products are more potent and addictive than cigarettes.

“They marketed to teenagers and children with the really cool commercials and the flavored e-cigarettes — and they purposefully marketed to them,” Webb said.

Settlements include compensation for people with nicotine addiction and other health problems, as well as reimbursement for people who purchased Juul products.

Local governments like school districts, cities, counties and tribal government will get resources to fight nicotine addiction among youth as part of the multidistrict litigation.

Choosing whether to participate in the settlement rests with each governmental entity, including likely authorization from its governing body.

The amount that each governmental entity receives will be based on a final allocation framework recommended by the court-appointed special master.

The framework will include factors such as population and litigation risk, among other considerations.

Critics have described both explicit and subtle efforts to appeal to youth since Juul went on the market in 2015.

The state Department of Health and Human Resources released a report in January 2020 called West Virginia Youth and Vaping: A Dangerous Combination. DHHR referred to the rise in vaping use as “alarming” and a problem that could affect brain and social development.