Juul Strikes $22.5M Deal With Wash. Over Youth Ad Claims

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced that Juul has agreed to pay $22.5 million to the Evergreen State over claims that the e-cigarette giant targeted youth in its product advertisements without disclosing the dangers of nicotine addiction.

Ferguson said that the deal requires Juul Labs Inc. to implement reforms in its marketing practices to ensure they are not being targeted to youth in the state. The consent decree notes that the deal is not an admission of any wrongdoing or liability of any kind by Juul, and that the company denies all of the state’s allegations.

Ferguson filed a suit in September 2020 accusing Juul of violating the Consumer Protection Act by selling and marketing its vape products without telling consumers about the nicotine content on its package labels. Ferguson alleged that Juul fueled a “pervasive and staggering” rise in e-cigarette use and nicotine addiction among youth by pushing fruity, sweet, dessert-flavored products in its marketing campaigns.

Ferguson cited Juul’s “Vaporized” campaign, which ran on social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook and featured young models and bright colors. The company was also accused of encouraging its followers to post about its products, hiring brand ambassadors and influencers to market the products to youth. 

The settlement also resolves claims that Juul sold its products in Washington State without obtaining appropriate licenses from Aug. 1, 2016, to April 9, 2018.

In addition to paying the fine, Juul must operate a retailer-compliance program for all of its locations in the state. The company will send “secret shoppers” to conduct no fewer than 25 compliance checks for age verification at retail stores per month for at least two years, and must update the attorney general’s office with details and results of the program every three months. 

Juul has also agreed to stop marketing and advertising its products on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, halt most of its social media promotions, and accurately advertise the content and effects of nicotine in its e-cigarettes. Juul must also stop marketing on LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube with very few exceptions, and must report content about products posted by underage users, according to the consent decree. 

In June 2021, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein announced that Juul agreed to pay $40 million to end claims that it aggressively marketed products to youth and spurred a wave of teen vaping addiction. And in November 2021, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said the state reached a $14.5 million deal with Juul over its advertising practices. 

LAW360:  https://www.law360.com/personal-injury-medical-malpractice/articles/1483885/juul-strikes-22-5m-deal-with-wash-over-youth-ad-claims

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