The nation’s largest manufacturer of vaping products has agreed to change how it does promotion in Arizona and elsewhere.
In a deal announced November 23, Juul Labs agreed not to use marketing that appeals to anyone younger than 21. That specifically includes a ban on marketing or advertising material for Juul products on any social media platform and not paying social media “influencers” to promote their products.
And the company will pay $14.5 million to settle the lawsuit filed against it nearly two years ago by Attorney General Mark Brnovich. While the state will keep $2 million of that, including to cover its litigation costs, the deal requires the balance to be spent on programs to help addicted youths end their addiction to e-cigarettes and education programs to keep others from starting the habit in the first place.
“Today’s settlement holds Juul accountable for its irresponsible marketing efforts that pushed Arizona minors toward nicotine and the addition that follows,” Brnovich said in a prepared statement.
In its own statement, Juul called the settlement “another step in our ongoing effort to reset our company.” But the company, which continues to insist that vaping is a healthier alternative to smoking, is not getting out of the business.
“We will continue working with federal and state stakeholders to advance a fully regulated, science-based marketplace for vapor products,” the statement reads.
In filing suit, the state charged that Juul “appealed to, targeted, and exploited a generation of youth.”
Brnovich cited ads that he said feature “young, attractive women in suggesting or casual and fun poses.” Brnovich also said the pods marketed by Juul dispense more nicotine than cigarettes but are designed to be less harsh, a tactic he said that is aimed at getting young people addicted.
The lawsuit came even after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had raised the age for the sale of vaping and other tobacco products to 21. That agency also outlawed the sale of most flavors.
Even Brnovich acknowledged at the time that the company had halted many of the practices cited in the lawsuit, practices he wants a state judge to enjoin the firm from engaging in in the future.
But he denied that the lawsuits – and the press conference to announce them – were simply designed to generate publicity for him and his office. And Brnovich brushed aside the FDA directive.
“I’m not going to rely on Washington, D.C. to solve Arizona problems,” he said. “In fact, I would submit that Washington, D.C. is where good ideas go to die.”
Even if the company is no longer engaging in the acts in the complaint, Brnovich said at the time the state still needs to take legal action.
“Someone has to pay the consequences for what they’ve done in the past,” he said.
That went to the part of the lawsuit where Brnovich sought to “disgorge” the company of profits it had made from underage Arizonans who were targeted and deceived. He also sought penalties of up to $10,000 for each knowing violation of the law.
Other provisions of the settlement include:
- Requiring that Juul products sold at retail locations to be displayed only behind the counter or in a secure display case to prohibit shoppers from getting them without the help of a clerk.
- No Juul-sponsored events where anyone younger than 21 will be present.
- Ensuring that Arizona retailers adopt age-verification compliance systems, monitored by Juul, with stores that do not comply losing their ability to sell Juul products.
- Mandating changes in how Juul advertises the nicotine content of its products.