After years of accusations and blame from lawmakers regarding skyrocketing rates of teen vaping, Jull Labs Inc. has agreed to pay the state of North Carolina $40 million in a settlement announced on June 28. The agreement also lays out commitments to address underage purchases by restricting advertising and sales.
The suit was filed against the electronic cigarette company by North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat. Stein alleged that Juul had targeted teens and young people with its marketing campaigns, adding to the rise in teen addiction.
This settlement heads off the trial which was scheduled to start next month and represents the first agreement of its kind to ever be established with a state.
"Juul sparked and spread a disease - the disease of nicotine addiction. They did it to teenagers across North Carolina and this country simply to make money," Stein said after the settlement hearing. "Today's court order will go a long way towards ensuring that their e-cigarettes product is not in kids' hands, its chemical vapor is out of their lungs, and that the nicotine does not poison or addict their brains."
After Juul launched in 2015, teen vaping exploded to more than 70%, creating a generation addicted to nicotine, according to health experts. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration declared underage vaping an "epidemic" in 2018.
"This settlement is consistent with our ongoing effort to reset our company and its relationship with our stakeholders, as we continue to combat underage usage and advance the opportunity for harm reduction for adult smokers," the vape company said in a statement after the hearing. "We seek to continue to earn trust through action."
Toward's Juul's point, teen vaping has been dropping, falling to 20% in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, experts say the reduction can be credited to laws restricting flavors and the new federal age limit of 21-years-old.
The recent agreement states that Juul will no longer advertise to anyone under the age of 21 in the state of North Carolina. Purchases made online will also be restricted in quantity by the state. From now on, Juul products will only be available behind the counter with the use of a scannable ID.
While these provisions only legally apply in NC, it's far from the only state suing the company. In fact, 39 state attorneys general have been cooperating on a Juul investigation since early last year.
States also aren't the only ones coming for Juul. In May, the company was accused of destroying documents and ignoring court orders by a North Carolina Superior Court Judge, something which could cost the company millions in sanctions.
Hundreds of customers and families who say their children became addicted to or were harmed by the company's products are also filing suits, consolidated into a California federal case.