JUUL has agreed to pay $438.5 million following a two-year investigation into the electric cigarette’s marketing which is believed to have contributed to an increase in vaping among teens.
“Through this settlement, we have secured hundreds of millions of dollars to help reduce nicotine use and forced JUUL to accept a series of strict injunctive terms to end youth marketing and crack down on underage sales,” said Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, who led the investigation and deal negotiation along with officials from Oregon and Texas.
“JUUL’s cynically calculated advertising campaigns created a new generation of nicotine addicts,” Tong also said in his statement. “They relentlessly marketed vaping products to underage youth, manipulated their chemical composition to be palatable to inexperienced users, employed an inadequate age verification process, and misled consumers about the nicotine content and addictiveness of its products.”
“The full public health ramifications of this misconduct are yet unknown,” he said.
As part of the settlement, JUUL has agreed to stop any “youth marketing.” This includes using cartoons, showing people under the age of 35 using their product, and paying influencers to promote their vape products.
The company will add an age verification requirement to access its website and end direct-to-consumer samples without age verification. The company can also no longer advertise on social media unless the advertisement features someone over the age of 35 and makes no health claims.
E-Cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat liquid combinations of nicotine, flavoring, and other added chemicals to produce an aerosol solution that is inhaled. JUULs, which are roughly the size and shape of a USB, are likely the most popular device on the market.
“JUUL is one of a few e-cigarettes that use nicotine salts, which allow particularly high levels of nicotine to be inhaled more easily and with less irritation than the free-base nicotine that has traditionally been used in tobacco products, including e-cigarettes,” according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “Approximately two-thirds of JUUL users aged 15 – 24 do not know that JUUL always contains nicotine.”
The CDC says nicotine can damage the brain development of young people, whose brains develop until the age of 25. Specifically, nicotine impacts attention, learning, mood, and impulse control. The agency also says there is a correlation between adolescent nicotine use and future drug addiction.
On July 5, the Food and Drug Administration temporarily suspended an order to pull JUUL production from the market immediately. The agency said the products required additional review in order to protect public health.
JUUL had challenged the initial order, which they said would significantly damage the company.
“FDA’s decision is arbitrary and capricious and lacks substantial evidence,” the company said in the filings.
The National Institute of Health reported that the number of teens who regularly vaped nicotine doubled between 2017 and 2019 – “eighth graders from 7.5% to 16.5%, for 10th graders from 15.8% to 30.7%, and for 12th graders from 18.8% to 35.3%. In 2020, the rates held steady at a respective 16.6%, 30.7%, and 34.5%.”
The money will be divided between the 33 states that participated in the investigation and Puerto Rico over the course of six to ten years. Connecticut is set to receive $16.2 million.
The agreement’s other co-signers include: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.