E-cigarette maker Juul Labs Inc has agreed to pay $462m to settle claims by six US states including New York and California that it unlawfully marketed its addictive products to minors, the states have said.
With the deal, announced on Wednesday, Juul has now settled with 45 states for more than $1bn. The company did not admit wrongdoing in the settlement, which also included Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts and New Mexico as well as the District of Columbia.
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The states had accused Juul of falsely marketing its e-cigarettes as less addictive than cigarettes and targeted minors with glamorous advertising campaigns.
“Juul’s lies led to a nationwide public health crisis and put addictive products in the hands of minors who thought they were doing something harmless,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said at a news conference.
The company said that the use of its products by people under age 18 had fallen by 95 percent since the fall of 2019, when it changed its marketing practices as part of a “company-wide reset.”
“With this settlement, we are nearing total resolution of the company’s historical legal challenges and securing certainty for our future,” Juul said in a statement.
Juul is still facing a lawsuit by Minnesota, where a trial is currently under way, as well as lawsuits or open investigations by Florida, Michigan, Maine and Alaska. In addition to the state settlements, the company last year agreed to pay $1.7bn to settle thousands of lawsuits by local government entities and individual consumers.
Under pressure from regulators, Juul pulled most of its flavours from the market in 2019 and halted much of its advertising. The US Food and Drug Administration briefly banned the products last June, though it put the ban on hold and agreed to reconsider the action after the company appealed.
Juul’s former largest investor, Marlboro cigarette maker Altria Group Inc, has also been facing claims for its alleged role in marketing Juul’s e-cigarettes, and has not settled.
Altria last month announced that it had given up its investment in Juul in exchange for some of Juul’s intellectual property. As of December, its share of Juul was valued at $250m, down from $12.8bn in 2018.
The head of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products said last year that adolescent e-cigarette use in the United States remained at “concerning levels” and posed a serious public health risk. Federal health officials said last October that an estimated 2.55 million US middle and high school students reported using e-cigarettes during a four-month span earlier in 2022.
Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, the addictive substance present in regular cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products, and nicotine in adolescence can harm the parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood and impulse control, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC also has said using nicotine in adolescence may raise the risk for future addiction to other drugs.