(DURHAM NC) – Electronic cigarette giant Juul Labs Inc. will pay $ 40 million to North Carolina and take further action to prevent use and lower sales, according to a marked legal settlement announced Monday after years of accusations that the company had fueled a teen vaping explosion.
A State judge has accepted the first agreement of its kind with a State. North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein had cited Juul in the lawsuit, accusing him of engaging in unfair and deceptive practices that look young people to use their vaping products, which provide nicotine dependent. The case was scheduled for trial next month.
As part of the agreement, Juul will not publish to anyone under the age of 21 in North Carolina, even through social media, and will limit online sales of Juul products to all residents of the state. It will also sell its products only behind retailer counters that have identity scanners to ensure customers are bigger.
The adolescence of e-cigarettes has grown by more than 70% since the launch of Juul in 2015, leading the U.S. Food and Medical Administration to declare a “epidemic” of minor vaping among adolescents. Health experts say the unprecedented increase risks attacking a younger generation of nicotine, an addictive chemical that is harmful to the developing brain.
“Juul sparked and spread a disease – nicotine addiction.” They did it to teenagers in North Carolina and in this country just to make money, “said Stein, a Democrat, after a brief court hearing.” Today’s justice order will go a long way to ensuring that their e-cigarette product is not in the hands of children, that their chemical vapor is out of their lungs, and that nicotine does not poison or addict their brains. “
Read more: How Juul vaporized
Juul, which is partly owned by Altria Group Inc., has seen sales drop after it stopped all advertising and social media promotion and pulling most of its flavors except for menthol.
“This establishment is in line with our ongoing effort to reset our society and its relationship with our stakeholders, while continuing to fight under-use and advance opportunities to reduce harm to smokers. adults, ”Juul said in a statement after the court hearing. “We’re looking to continue to gain confidence with the action.”
Many states have presented their own processes against Juul. A group of 39 state attorneys general have been cooperatively investigating the company’s marketing and products since February 2020.
Juul also conducts hundreds of personal injury lawsuits from customers and young people’s families who said they were injured or dependent on the company’s products. Those were consolidated in a California federal case.
Juul had already filed a lawsuit this spring in the North Carolina case. Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson said in May that the company had destroyed documents and ignored the court order, leading to possible massive monetary sanctions.
Adolescent vaping dropped significantly last year, according to the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a national survey, just under 20% of high school students said they were recent users of electronic cigarettes and other vaping products, up from about 28% in 2019.
Experts indicate restrictions on flavors with a new federal law that has raised the age limit for all tobacco sales and vaping to 21.
Anti-vaping defenders welcomed the decision. But they said more restrictions are needed to curb adolescent use, including a ban on menthol from Juul and all other e-cigarettes. Stein also ordered the FDA to intervene.
“The evidence is clear that Juul’s high-dose nicotine products have caused the youth e-cigarette epidemic,” said a statement from Matthew Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “The evidence is also clear that the taste of menthol appeals to children and children passing on menthol products.”
Monday’s establishment, which Hudson signed, also directs visits by “secret buyers” to shops by young people to ensure restrictions have been put in place. The $ 40 million, to be paid over six years, will be earmarked by the state for vaping cessation and prevention programs, and for e-cigarette research.
Stein filed the lawsuit in state court in Durham, a central city in North Carolina that hosts Duke University. Both the city and the school grew a lot in the 20th century thanks to tobacco production. North Carolina remains the No. 1 producer of smoke-purified tobacco in the country.
The connection to Durham was not lost on Stein, who said he remembers traveling to the city to tour the current Liggett & Myers cigarette factory when he was in primary school.
“The whole city smelled of tobacco,” Stein told reporters after the hearing. “When we thought about bringing this case up, we thought there was some symbolism to bring it here.”
AP health writer Matthew Perrone in Washington contributed to this report.