COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – A company widely attributed as dominating the vaping industry now owes millions to settle a lawsuit over its marketing to a younger audience, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced Tuesday.
Juul Labs will pay $438.5 million in a settlement with Yost and 32 other attorneys general. The investigation from the group’s lawsuit found that Juul employed several different strategies to market its e-cigarettes to younger users. Juul hosted launch parties and also made advertisements with young models and influencers on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Yost’s office said that almost half of Juul’s Twitter audience were minors. Juul has since shut down its social media marketing efforts.
“Using attractive models, not leading with statistics of used patterns, but using social media influencers for example. And this ruling bans those practices moving forward,” said Dr. Loren Wold, a professor of physiology and cell biology at the Ohio State University.
Dr. Wold has led studies by the American Heart Association into youth vaping, and the long-term effects it can have on teens. He says while e-cigarettes are popular among youth, their usage has slightly diminished.
The lawsuit from the attorneys general also took issue with the company selling vapes in flavors it called “youth-friendly,” including Miint, Fruut, Bruule, Tobaac, Cool Cucumber, Coco Mint and Mango. Since the attorneys general took aim at Juul, it has since stepped its vape flavors back to just tobacco and menthol.
The multimillion-dollar settlement Juul now owes is expected in payments over six to 10 years. Yost said if the e-cigarette takes longer to pay, they will owe more. The total settlement could end up being $476.6 million if paid out over the full 10 years.
Alongside the money, Juul also agreed to stop all marketing to young people, and won’t depict anyone under 35 in any future marketing efforts. It also won’t use any cartoons in advertisements, pay for product placement, offer free samples or sell brand-name merchandise.
The group of attorneys general is finalizing the settlement with Juul, which could take three to four weeks. Unrelated to the lawsuit, the Food and Drug Administration also banned Juul from selling e-cigarettes altogether in June, but the company was granted an appeal to keep them on the market.
“These compounds are approved for ingestion, not inhalation. So the FDA, has started cracking down to say, those are approved for food products for example, but they’re not approved to be heated and inhaled,” said Wold.