Juul Labs sued by California over ads targeting youth

E-cigarette maker said it is taking steps to reduce underage smoking

California sued Juul Labs, the largest seller of e-cigarettes in the U.S., on Monday, alleging the company targeted young adults through advertising campaigns while failing to give warning about potential health risks.

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In addition to failing to warn about potential risks for cancer, birth defects and reproductive harm, California officials say Juul did not verify the age of California consumers and violated the privacy rights of minors by keeping their email addresses even if they did not pass age verification on its website. Those email addresses were used to send marketing material, the suit claims.

As many others have claimed, California also alleges the company’s decision to sell flavored products – like mango and cucumber – directly appealed to young people.

“Despite now claiming that its mission is to help ‘adult smokers,’ starting with its launch, JLI has engaged in a systematic campaign to target underage California residents,” the lawsuit states. “JLI’s campaign has been wildly successful, with millions of teens and young adults using their product. While JLI’s profits soared, users became addicted and their health was harmed.”

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The company was taking steps to reduce youth use, a Juul spokesperson said in a statement to FOX Business.

“While we have not yet reviewed the complaint, we remain focused on resetting the vapor category in the U.S. and earning the trust of society by working cooperatively with attorneys general, regulators, public health officials, and other stakeholders to combat underage use and convert adult smokers from combustible cigarettes,” the spokesperson said. “Our customer base is the world’s 1 billion adult smokers and we do not intend to attract underage users."

The has stopped accepting orders for its mint-flavored products in the U.S. and has suspended all U.S. advertising as it takes additional steps to reduce youth use, the company added.

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Meanwhile, on Monday, The New York Times reported that President Trump was backing off his plans to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes after announcing his intention to do so in September. The publication reported that the ban “appears to have been set aside,” amid mounting pressure from both political advisers and lobbyists to think about how his supporters might react.

Many states have independently issued their own flavored e-cigarette bans.

Juul is the subject of multiple federal and state investigations examining its role in sparking the widespread vaping trend among minors.

As of mid-November, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 42 deaths in patients with e-cigarette or vaping product use, including four in California. Vaping has been linked to more than 2,170 cases of lung injuries.

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