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North Carolina AG sues e-cigarette company JUUL, claims they targeted young people

Elizabeth Zwirz

The North Carolina attorney general on Wednesday said his office filed a lawsuit against e-cigarette company JUUL, accusing them of targeting young customers in their business model and “misrepresenting” the threat of nicotine in their merchandise.

Attorney General Josh Stein condemned the company, claiming they had a direct hand in young people’s use of e-cigarettes, according to a news release.

“JUUL targeted young people as customers. As a result, vaping has become an epidemic among minors,” Stein said. “JUUL's business practices are not only reckless, they're illegal.”

He vowed to “put a stop” to the company’s behavior. North Carolina is the first state to sue JUUL, the news release noted.

The lawsuit accuses JUUL of having intentionally targeted young people in the creation of their overall product, as well as utilizing methods such as social media and “youth-oriented sponsors” as means of marketing, the news release said.

It also claimed the company “used lax age verification techniques for online purchases” that opened up ways for customers to get around or dodge age requirements.

“JUUL also routinely understated the strength of nicotine in its products and downplayed their health risks,” the news release said. “The potency of a typical JUUL pod is so strong and addictive that it is nearly three times the permissible concentration allowed for sale in a number of countries for people of all ages.”

A JUUL Labs spokesperson released a statement in response to the legal action, saying they haven’t viewed the lawsuit. They also presented a list of what they’ve said they’ve done to help tackle young people using e-cigarettes.

“While we have not yet seen the complaint, we share the Attorney General’s concerns about youth vaping, which is why we have been cooperating with his office and why we have taken the most aggressive actions of anyone in the industry to combat youth usage,” the company said.

“We strongly advocate for T21 legislation, we stopped the sale of non-tobacco and non-menthol based flavored JUULpods to our traditional retail store partners, enhanced our online age-verification process, strengthened our retailer compliance program with over 2,000 secret shopper visits per month, and shut down our Facebook and Instagram accounts while working constantly to remove inappropriate social media content generated by others on those platforms,” they continued. “Finally, we continue to develop technologies to further restrict underage access."

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In November 2018, the company announced that it would be temporarily halting the sale of its flavored pods for e-cigarettes in retails stores. They also revealed that they’d be shuttering their Facebook and Instagram accounts, however their Twitter and YouTube presence would remain for people over the age of 21.

Among the repercussions sought by Stein is for JUUL to stop the sale of e-cigarettes to minors in North Carolina, “limit the flavors sold in the state, stop advertising and marketing practices that are intended to or likely to appeal to minors, and delete all customer data for customers whom JUUL cannot confirm are at least 18,” the news release said.

Fox Business’ Megan Henney and Fox News’ Kimberly Wagner contributed to this report

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