For years, the tobacco industry marketed their products under loose regulations. As a result of a 1999 lawsuit under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), cigarette and tobacco manufacturer Philip Morris landed itself in trouble with the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). The company was found guilty of targeting children and fraudulently covering up the health risks associated with smoking.
The DOJ won the battle but may be losing the war, thanks to vaping. As with every industry looking to turn a profit, it needs to reinvent itself every so often to remain fresh and new – and to engage new customers. Thus, electronic cigarettes were born, creating an extension of the nicotine addiction health crisis.
JUUL has been at the forefront of much of the controversy related to vaping because its practices allegedly targeted kids. While JUUL may not be the first e-cigarette device company to have put a vaping device in the hands of youth, its advertisements appear to be designed to entice young users. Creating sweet flavors that sound tempting to young children and even adults, allowed for sales to a much larger market. That idea has now proven to be deadly.
A long history of skirting the rules
One company in particular has a large financial stake in JUUL Labs: Altria Group Inc., formerly known as Philip Morris Companies, Inc.
The tobacco company brought up on (and convicted of) RICO charges that included misleading the public about the risks of smoking and secondhand smoke; manipulating the nicotine delivery of cigarettes; and targeting the youth market owns a large stake in JUUL Labs. In 2018, Altria invested $12.8 billion in San Francisco’s own JUUL Labs in exchange for a 35% stake in the company.
JUUL Labs has repeatedly claimed that it never set out to target children. (Philip Morris too claimed that it wasn’t targeting children.) JUUL controls about 75% of the electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS) market. With Altria holding such a large interest, it stands to reason that it would also have influence over JUUL Labs’ marketing tactics.
The effects of JUUL and vaping
Traditional smoking has decreased substantially so it only makes sense that for tobacco companies to stay in business, they need to come up with a new gimmick. While adults have curbed their habit, teens have picked it up through the use of vaping devices, including JUUL. In the last few years, there has been an 80% increase in high school vaping and 50% increase in middle school vaping. Is there any wonder why, when JUUL’s product contains 3 times the amount of nicotine than other vaping products.
In November, it was reported that there have been four deaths and 161 hospitalizations in California since August 2019 for severe breathing problems and lung damage related to vaping. Many of the 2,000-plus victims nationwide have been children. The issue is so prevalent that the State of California has filed a lawsuit against JUUL Labs Inc. The lawsuit includes a claim that the company targeted kids through attractive flavors.
A JUUL spokesman was quoted as saying the company is focused on “combat[ing] underage use and convert[ing] adult smokers from combustible cigarettes.” Now that JUUL has fueled nicotine addiction through vaping, they may be looking to pull users of vaping devices back into using traditional cigarettes.
If you or a loved one has been injured, or if your loved one has died due to the use of an e-cigarette or other vaping device, McNicholas & McNicholas, LLP is prepared to hold the manufacturer responsible. You may be entitled to compensation for damages that you have sustained. To schedule your free consultation with one of our knowledgeable Los Angeles e-cigarette attorneys, call our office at 310-474-1582 or reach out through our contact page to tell us your story.