San Francisco based JUUL Labs’, an e-cigarette company that launched in June 2015, grew sevenfold this year as vaping products became rampantly available. The company is responsible for manufacturing a compact vaping device that is easily mistaken for a flash drive. According to some, the trendy device was an instant hit with teens hoping to get their new hobby past their parents or school authorities.
“That’s just an indication of how quickly JUUL became prevalent,” recounted Esfand Nafisi, a lawyer who is handling two of three lawsuits initiated against JUUL Labs last month. “You blinked your eye, and suddenly they were all over the place.”
JUUL Labs has claimed its product is for adults only. Yet, those who’ve filed lawsuits disagree and have alleged it deceptively markets itself as safe for younger generations. JUUL Labs spokesperson Victoria Davis said they “do not believe the cases have merit and will be defending them vigorously.”
One case is a nationwide class action with ten named plaintiffs ages fourteen and up who live in different states. They’ve alleged that JUUL causes nicotine addiction in consumers, stating in the filing, JUUL is “more potent than a cigarette,” allowing nicotine to enter the bloodstream at a high rate of speed. They also claim that JUUL’s decision to market through social media was one aimed at soliciting millennials – even those under the legal smoking age.
“How much nicotine is the JUUL actually delivering into the bloodstream of an average person?” Nafisi asked. “If it’s far more than a cigarette, we believe that’s information that ought to have been disclosed but was not.”
Another lawsuit was filed in a New York federal court in June by attorney Jason Solotaroff on behalf of a soon-to-be high school sophomore identified only as D.P. The 15-year-old attended a school where JUUL is commonplace. It was “on the school bus, in the bathrooms, outside of school and even in class,” according to court documents. Solotaroff said his client very quickly became addicted to vaping products using JUUL’s device.
Earlier this year, JUUL entered the international market, launching in Israel where there is no age restriction on advertising or selling e-cigarettes to minors. The company also launched in the United Kingdom in July after developing JUUL pods that complied with the European Union Tobacco Products Directive.
CEO Kevin Burns said JUUL remains committed to eliminating cigarette smoking by providing adult smokers with an effective alternative, and in doing so, is hoping to improve the lives of the world’s 1 billion adult smokers, according to the company’s mission statement.
“I think JUUL has been insincere from the very beginning in saying it’s only for adult smokers,” said Robert Jackler of Stanford University’s School of Medicine. He said JUUL has indicated they have “the most educated company, the most diligent, the most well-researched.” He added that the company, as part of its deceptive marketing practices, makes every site visitor log their birth date and the last four digits of their social security number. If they are underage, they will be denied access. However, the minor will still receive emailed ads containing purchase incentives for starter kits.
A spokesperson denied this. “If a person fails the age verification process, he or she does not get added to an email list-serve to receive information and additionally would be unable to purchase product from us. JUUL is intended for adult smokers only. We cannot be more emphatic on this point: no minor or non-nicotine user should ever use JUUL.”