Juul will pay $438.5 million to settle an investigation by dozens of US states into the marketing practices blamed for kicking off the teen and youth vaping crisis.
“JUUL’s cynically calculated advertising campaigns created a new generation of nicotine addicts,” said Connecticut Attorney General William Tong in a statement announcing the deal Tuesday. The two-year investigation found Juul marketed to underage users, had misleading packaging that hid the amount of nicotine in its devices, and created a product that could be easily concealed.
The settlement also puts restrictions on its marketing practices going forward: the company said it won’t fund education programs, include people under 35 in marketing, sell merchandise, or give out free samples. Juul said in a statement that the restrictions are in line with its current practices and that the settlement “is a significant part of our ongoing commitment to resolve issues from the past.”
“We remain focused on the future,” Juul said in its statement — a future it says is focused on transitioning adult smokers to vaping and away from traditional cigarettes. But that future is under threat: in June, the Food and Drug Administration rejected the company’s application to sell e-cigarettes in the US and said it had to take its products off the market. Juul appealed the decision, and a federal judge said the products could stay on the market pending additional evaluation.
The company is also still facing other lawsuits from multiple other states and from users who say they were harmed by the company’s products.
Juul quickly became popular with teenagers after its launch in 2015, and regulators blamed its fruity flavors and advertising practices for hooking a new generation on nicotine. But Juul went on the retreat after it drew regulatory scrutiny in 2018 and took all flavors other than tobacco and menthol off the market in 2019. Its popularity gradually declined; now, teens are more interested in disposable e-cigarettes, which still have flavors.
Today’s statement won’t stop youth from vaping, Tong said during a press briefing. But after it’s finalized in the next three to four weeks, it will distribute what amounts to a quarter of the company’s annual US sales to 34 states and territories. “We have essentially taken a big chunk out of what was once a market leader, and by their conduct, a major offender,” Tong said.