Juul to pay Colorado $32 million to settle youth marketing lawsuit

Electronic cigarette maker Juul Labs will pay Colorado nearly $32 million to settle a lawsuit over marketing practices aimed at teenagers, the Colorado Attorney General’s Office announced Wednesday.

The $31.7 million payment to Colorado is part of the $462 million that Juul Labs agreed to pay to six states and the District of Columbia to settle claims that the company illegally marketed its electronic cigarettes to young people and misrepresented the health risks associated with vaping.

The payment is in addition to the $438 million that Juul Labs last year agreed to pay to 33 states over similar claims.

“This settlement is a victory for the state of Colorado and everyone who fell victim to Juul’s reckless, deceptive and unconscionable marketing tactics,” Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said in a news release.

The state sued Juul Labs in 2020 after a nearly yearlong investigation into the company’s practices. The state found Juul targeted “cool kids” who would want to vape their products through ads and social media campaigns, used ambassadors to give out free samples at convenience stores and leveraged influencers to reach kids and young adults, contributing to Colorado’s e-cigarette epidemic.

“Juul used social media, abused social media, to harm young people,” Weiser said during a news conference Wednesday morning.

The $31.7 million payout to Colorado will be used to fund youth-focused anti-vaping and anti-tobacco campaigns, and to pay for the state’s costs and attorney fees in the lawsuit. It also will be used for other programs focused on youth mental health, Weiser said.

“How do we help young people live healthier lives is the broader question,” he said.

Juul spokesman Austin Finan said, in a statement, that the company is “nearing total resolution of the company’s historical legal challenges and securing certainty for our future.” To date, Juul has settled lawsuits brought by 47 states and territories and agreed to pay more than $1 billion.

“Now we are positioned to dedicate even greater focus on our path forward to maximize the value and impact of our product technology and scientific foundation,” Finan said.

As another condition of the Colorado settlement, Juul will be prohibited from using any similar marketing tactics going forward and must hire a compliance officer to ensure the settlement terms are followed, according to the attorney general’s office. The company also will be forced to disclose “millions” of internal documents, according to the news release.

Teen use of e-cigarettes skyrocketed in the years following Juul’s 2015 launch, leading the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to declare an “epidemic” of underage vaping among young people. Health experts said the unprecedented increase risked hooking a generation of young people on nicotine.

But since 2019, Juul has dropped all U.S. advertising and pulled its fruit and candy flavors from store shelves. Federal data also shows a drop in teen vaping rates.

The Associated Press and Denver Post staff writer Meg Wingerter contributed to this report. 

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