CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey Monday announced his office has settled a lawsuit with Juul for a total of $7.9 million.
That’s in addition to a plethora of stipulations, most in connection with how Juul — under the company name Juul Labs Inc. — advertises and markets its products in West Virginia. The company was accused of “engaging in unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the manufacturing, designing, selling, marketing, promoting and distributing of e-cigarettes” in the state, especially promotions targeting underage users.
In legal terms, the company was accused of violating the state’s Consumer Credit and Protection Act.
“This settlement puts companies like Juul in check to not copy big tobacco’s playbook and gear marketing strategies toward underage people,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “In Juul’s case, we have alleged it has deceived consumers about its nicotine strength, misrepresented the nicotine equivalency of its products to traditional cigarettes and understated the risks of addiction that occur with such powerful levels of nicotine.”
Morrisey outlined numerous issues in the lawsuit, including Juul heavily advertising through social media, finding influencers, fashion bloggers and celebrities with teenage fans and targeting underage users, just to name a few.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Juul e-cigarettes have a high level of nicotine — a single Juul pod contains as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes. The attorney general’s lawsuit disagrees with this data, arguing the overall amount of nicotine in a Juul pod “is equivalent to 1.72 packs of cigarettes.”
In 2017, 14.3% of high school students in West Virginia used e-cigarettes on at least one day in the past 30 days. Nationally the rate was 13.2%.
Data from the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey revealed that more than 5 million U.S. middle and high school students were currently using e-cigarettes, with 27.5% of high schoolers and 10.5% of middle schoolers reporting current e-cigarette use. Of those current e-cigarette users, 34.2% of high schoolers and 18% of middle schoolers use e-cigarettes on 20 days or more per month.