New York State is suing e-cigarette manufacturer Juul, accusing the company of deceptive marketing and deliberately targeting teenagers.
New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) on Tuesday said Juul “took a page from Big Tobacco’s playbook” by engaging in deceptive business practices, and illegally sold its products to minors through its website and in third-party retail stores throughout the state.
According to the complaint, Juul’s advertising and social media posts misled consumers about the content of its products by failing to warn that they contain nicotine.
The complaint alleged that even when Juul began including nicotine warnings in its advertising in 2018, it continued to mislead consumers by claiming the nicotine levels in a single pod were equivalent to a pack of cigarettes, when in fact a user consumes far more.
“Juul’s aggressive advertising of its multi-flavored products has contributed to a public health crisis that has left countless New Yorkers—many of them teenagers—addicted to its products and fighting for their health,” the complaint said.
James alleged that Juul hosted dozens of parties as part of its 2015 launch, and recruited young people as “brand ambassadors,” who were tasked with handing out sample Juul products and Juul-branded giveaways to consumers at these launch parties.
The complaint also alleged that Juul continued to do business with dozens of retailers that failed the company’s “secret shopper” program meant to to prevent underage sales.
The lawsuit seeks to require Juul to stop targeting minors, as well as pay fines associated with the deceptive marketing and illegal sales allegations.
Juul is facing numerous state and federal investigations about the role it played in what public health officials have called an “epidemic” of youth vaping.
California announced a lawsuit against Juul on Monday, and North Carolina was the first state to sue Juul earlier this year.
Juul has disputed allegations that it marketed to teens and in a statement noted that it has halted its advertising and removed most of its flavors from the market.
“We remain focused on resetting the vapor category in the U.S. and earning the trust of society by working cooperatively with attorneys general, regulators, public health officials, and other stakeholders to combat underage use and convert adult smokers from combustible cigarettes,” the company said.