Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said Tuesday he has filed a lawsuit against Juul that alleges the vaping company marketed its products to kids and downplayed their health risks.
Weiser is also accusing Juul of falsely suggesting its vaping products are a healthy smoking alternative and can help people quit using cigarettes.
Weiser’s office has been investigating Juul for nearly a year and the lawsuit, filed in Denver District Court, argues that the company violated the Colorado Consumer Protection Act.
“Addiction to e-cigarettes poses major health risks to Colorado youth,” Weiser said in a written statement. “Juul must be held accountable for its reckless, deceptive and unconscionable marketing.”
Weiser’s legal action comes after a study showed that in 2018 Colorado had the nation’s highest youth vaping rate. State lawmakers have taken a number of steps to try to curb teen use, including banning indoor vaping and enacting more stringent regulations around the sale of tobacco products.
Additionally, voters will decide in November whether to tax vaping products in Colorado for the first time.
Juul has been facing national scrutiny over the past year or so. Other states have launched similar investigations into the company following the explosion in the use of its products.
Weiser’s office partnered with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Adams 12 Five Star Schools district on the investigation into Juul.
The 112-page lawsuit alleges that Juul developed its products, which resemble a USB flash drive, to make them more attractive and easily accessible to youth and more difficult for parents and teachers to identify.
The attorney general’s office also claims that Juul made youth-friendly vaping flavors — like fruit medley and cool mint — despite warnings from public health and government officials that they could lead to use by teens.
The lawsuit alleges that one of the ways teens were able to obtain Juul devices was by emailing the company a product serial number to claim they received a defective product. Juul would send new devices to the person without requiring that they send the “broken” one back.
“A buyer could create an unlimited number of accounts using different email addresses but using the same age-verification information. This
allowed youth to obtain numerous ‘replacement’ devices from multiple accounts, and then share them or sell to other youth,” the lawsuit said. “Though Juul lost money on these warranty replacements, they made money on the sale of pods for use in these devices. Juul, therefore, had little incentive to close this loophole.”
Wesier’s office says Colorado’s education system has been affected by the boom in vaping. The lawsuit says “no Colorado school has escaped the scourge” and that teachers and administrators have struggled to address vaping on campuses.
“Juul created the youth vaping epidemic in Colorado and throughout the country,” the lawsuit says.
Finally, the state is alleging that Juul failed to disclose in social media advertising and in other promotions that its products contain nicotine, and that it paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to Quit Media, LLC, a search engine optimization consultant that operated a fake smoking cessation website under the name “Quit Smoking Community.”
MORE: Read the lawsuit.
The company has said it has worked to combat teen use and that its vaping devices are not meant to be cessation products, but are rather just another way to consume nicotine.