Juul Labs has entered a tentative $438.5 million settlement with 34 states and territories — including Utah — over an inquiry into the e-cigarette manufacturer’s marketing and sales practices.
The states have contended that Juul’s marketing practices triggered the nation’s teenage vaping crisis, although the company did not acknowledge any wrongdoing in the settlement.
Utah is expected to receive an estimated $8.6 million over six years under the tentative agreement
According to the Utah Department of Commerce and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, the agreement resolves a two-year, bipartisan investigation into the e-cigarette manufacturer’s marketing and sales practices.
“Deceptive marketing tactics are never tolerated, but Juul’s were especially despicable,” said Department of Commerce executive director Margaret Busse in a statement.
“This settlement represents a big win for Utah in the fight against those who purposely market dangerous products to youth. Juul will be held responsible for marketing addictive products to underage individuals,” Busse said.
The settlement would force Juul to comply with a series of strict injunctive terms severely limiting their marketing and sales practices. The Utah Division of Consumer Protection is charged to enforce laws concerning deceptive acts by suppliers.
According to the state agencies’ press release, Juul was for years a main manufacturer of vaping products. This multistate investigation revealed that Juul achieved this position by willfully engaging in an advertising campaign that appealed to youth, even though its e-cigarettes are both illegal for them to purchase and are unhealthy for youth to use, according to the statement.
The investigation determined that Juul marketed to underage users through launch parties, advertisements with trendy models, social media posts and free samples. It marketed a technology-focused, sleek design that could be easily concealed and sold its product in flavors known to attract underage users.
Moreover, Juul manipulated the chemical composition of its product to make the vapor less harsh on the throats of young and inexperienced users. To preserve its young customer base, Juul knowingly used ineffective age verification techniques, according to the state agencies’ press release.
The investigation also revealed that Juul’s original packaging did not clearly disclose it contained nicotine and implied the concentration of it was lower than it actually was.
Juul Labs is awaiting a decision by the Food and Drug Administration over whether it would be permitted to continue to sell its products. It has been trying to reposition itself as a seller of vaping products that could help adults quit smoking traditional cigarettes, according to The New York Times.
The Times reported: “The tentative settlement prohibits the company from marketing to youth, funding education in schools and misrepresenting the level of nicotine in its products. But Juul had already discontinued several marketing practices and withdrawn many of its flavored pods that appealed to teenagers, under public pressure from lawmakers, parents and health experts a few years ago when the vaping crisis was at a peak.”
According to results of the 2021 Student Health and Risk Prevention Statewide Survey of Utah students, vaping has declined in all age groups surveyed after use of e-cigarettes peaked in 2019.
Students as young as sixth grade reported attempting vaping in their lifetimes, peaking at 5.2% in the 2019 survey but dropping to 4.7% in the statewide survey two years later.
Nearly a third of Utah 12th graders said they had attempted it in their lifetime, although the percent of seniors who said they had vaped in the last 30 days was 9.7% in the 2021 survey, down from 15.9% in 2019.
The survey is administered to students in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12 in 40 school districts and 20 charter schools across Utah.