The parents of a 15-year-old New York City girl are suing vape company Juul Labs, Inc. and affiliated parties for the teenager’s nicotine addiction – saying the product’s advertisements “exploit themes that resonate with teenagers while falsely denying doing so,” court records show.
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Kathryn and Ian Fay claimed in a lawsuit filed Tuesday – the same day e-cigarettes were banned in New York State – that their daughter started using a Juul e-cigarette when she was 12 and became hooked on the vape’s mango and other fruit flavors.
“JUUL is available in sweet flavors including mango, fruit medley and cool mint,” court papers state. “According to one survey, 81 percent of current youth e-cigarette users cited the availability of appealing flavors as the primary reason for use.”
The size and shape of the device also makes it more attractive to kids, court papers allege, also noting the similarities between the Juul's packaging compared to that of actual cigarettes.
“The JUUL e-cigarette is a sleek, high-tech design. It looks like a USB flash drive and it can charge in a computer. It is about the size and shape of a pack of chewing gum; it is small enough to fit in a closed hand,” the suit states. “JUUL is easy to conceal from parents and teachers.”
Juul's marketing campaign has since reached 20.5 million minors, the suit states.
The Manhattan Supreme Court suit was also filed against Altria Group, Inc., which owns a 35 percent stake in the brand, cigarette company Philip Morris USA Inc. and New York Smoke Shop, which is located on 9th Street in Manhattan and is accused of selling to the teen. The Fays are seeking unspecified damages.
“Mimicking Big Tobacco’s past marketing practices, Defendants prey on youth the recruit replacements for financial gain,” the suit states.
The e-cigarette company also allegedly deceptively claimed its products were “non-addictive nicotine delivery systems, or less addictive nicotine products than cigarettes” despite knowing otherwise.
Had the teen “been adequately informed and not intentionally deceived by Defendant, she would not have purchased or used JUUL products.”
The lawsuit also indicates the teen was physically hurt as a result of her e-cigarette use, but does not provide specific details pertaining to the injury.
In a statement emailed to FOX Business, a Juul Labs spokesperson said, in part, that the suit "largely copies and pastes unfounded allegations previously raised in other lawsuits, which we have been actively contesting for over a year."
"Our product has always only been intended to be a viable alternative for the one billion current adult smokers in the world," the spokesperson said. "We have never marketed to youth and do not want any non-nicotine users to try our products. We have launched an aggressive action plan to combat underage use as it is antithetical to our mission."