Class Action Suit Against Juul Moves Forward
Juul, the “cool” e-cigarette manufacturer, is facing a class action lawsuit alleging practices that mirror those of the traditional tobacco industry. The suit alleges Juul purposely designed a highly addictive product, concealed the addictive nature of the product, and lured teen users with advertising similar to the type banned for the tobacco industry. San Francisco U.S. District Judge William Orrick III approved the case to go forward to court.
The plaintiffs include both adults and minors who claim harm from the use of the Juul products which are known to contain very high levels of nicotine, and which have been, and are, marketed in candy-like flavors that appeal to minors. After coming under scrutiny by the FDA, Juul removed a small number of candy-like flavors from the offering, but still sell Mango, Fruit, Crème, Cucumber, and Menthol.
Juul’s growth in e-cigarette market share has been astronomical, making them the market leader in the less than four years of existence. The slick design, high nicotine content, “cool” advertising, and the candy flavors have contributed to the rise. Juul’s e-cigarette pods are advertised to contain 3% and 5% nicotine levels. The lawsuit claims these levels create a high addiction risk and that Juul’s design increases the speed of the drug into the bloodstream which furthers the nicotine addiction. The claims moving forward to court allege false advertising, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, deceptive trade practices, design and manufacturing defect and failure to warn.
In 2017, strict FDA oversight rules for e-cigarettes were tabled (read “discarded”). Not long after, tobacco company Altria (parent company of Philip Morris) invested heavily in Juul. Big tobacco has a long and sordid history of creating products that increase addiction and recruiting new buyers by marketing to underage markets. The FDA has since loosely “watched” the industry, periodically making statements about controlling the disturbing rise of teen e-cigarette use. In reality, they mostly asked for voluntary concessions from manufacturers, none of which appeared to be substantial or tracked for compliance. Last year, Juul was raided by the FDA to seek evidence of advertising to minors. As expected under FDA’s Gottlieb, nothing happened after that raid and no results were shared with the public.
The class-action lawsuit doesn’t address additional risks of using Juul and other e-cigarettes, including the risk for lung disease, cancer, and other types of cell damage.