Minnesota to sue e-cig maker JUUL, accusing it of 'preying' upon students

AG Keith Ellison and Gov. Tim Walz announced the lawsuit on Wednesday.
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The State of Minnesota has filed a lawsuit against e-cigarette maker JUUL Labs, accusing it of creating a "public nuisance" by targeting the state's youth with advertising.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Gov. Tim Walz announced the lawsuit on Wednesday, with Gov. Walz saying the state wants to "hold JUUL accountable for the vaping epidemic they started in Minnesota."

The lawsuit claims JUUL created increasingly potent and addictive products, but failed to disclose its higher doses of nicotine to consumers, while still marketing vaping devices as a "safe alternative to cigarettes."

It also describes how JUUL created "sleek-looking products and sweet, popular flavors that were designed to appeal to youth," with the company then launching a "vast, targeted, and highly effective youth-oriented marketing campaign," which Ellison and Walz say mirrors how tobacco companies would entice young smokers in the past.

"My job is to protect Minnesotans from deceptive, fraudulent, and unlawful practices, and to protect their health and safety," said AG Ellison. 

"It’s especially important for me to protect our young folks from deception and harm. I’m bringing a lawsuit against JUUL today because it has created a public nuisance that is centered around deceiving, addicting, and harming our young people."

It comes amid a growing number of serious lung injuries being reported across the country linked to vaping, albeit many of these have been linked to the vaping of products containing the cannabinoid THC.

More than 40 people have died from vaping related injuries this year, three of them in Minnesota.

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“My job is to protect Minnesotans from deceptive, fraudulent, and unlawful practices, and to protect their health and safety. It’s especially important for me to protect our young folks from deception and harm. I’m bringing a lawsuit against JUUL today because it has created a public nuisance that is centered around deceiving, addicting, and harming our young people,” said Attorney General Ellison.

"Students across the state tell me they feel preyed upon by JUUL," Gov. Walz added. "As a father of two teenagers and Governor of Minnesota, I’m saying enough is enough. We’re going to hold JUUL accountable for the vaping epidemic they started in Minnesota."

The lawsuit also claimed JUUL has been negligent in verifying its customers' ages, and "deliberately turning a blind eye to the fact that its controls were not working and underage Minnesotans were purchasing their products."

The state claims that JUUL has contributed to the "dramatic" rise in tobacco use among Minnesota youth, which has seen the number of 11th graders who have reported vaping in the past 30 days growing by more than 50 percent in the last three years.

Among 9th and 8th graders, the increase is even greater.

Teen vaping

The state is looking for the company to fund a corrective public education campaign in Minnesota about the dangers of youth vaping, provide "monetary relief" for "great harm and injury" it has allegedly caused in Minnesota, and reimburse the state for "all its expenditures" relating to controlling e-cig use among Minnesota's youth.

BMTN has reached out to JUUL for comment.

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