What started as a trickle of lawsuits filed against electronic cigarette maker Juul Labs over claims that it tricked young people around the world into puffing away on its vape devices has turned into a flood. New lawsuits have been filed in Kansas, New York, and Illinois and they all follow the same pattern: a young person, once healthy and living a life free of nicotine, is lured in by colorful images of other young people using the product and begins using a Juul themselves. They do so because they, according to Juul lawsuits, like the flavor, believe the product to be safe, and are not informed of the nicotine content of the product.
“We believe that Juul marketed this product particularly to teenagers and did not disclose the existence of nicotine in it or the fact that it’s addictive,” says the lawyer for the Missouri teen who is suing Juul and claims the company is responsible for his new nicotine addiction, respiratory problems, anxiety, and exposure to harmful chemicals. Isaac Gant’s lawsuit asserts that Juul employed the same tactics as those used by cigarette manufacturers to hook the public on their products; an assertion that is backed up by internal documents discussed in a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee report released earlier this summer.
The theme was echoed in a lawsuit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court. Kathryn and Ian Fay are suing Juul Labs over claims that the company’s flavoring, marketing tactics, and messaging caused their 12-year old daughter to start vaping the nicotine device. “Mimicking Big Tobacco’s past marketing practices, Defendants prey on youth the recruit replacements for financial gain,” the suit alleges.
And, in Illinois, five plaintiffs – all between the ages of 18 and 20, have sued Juul and claim that “in 2015, however, defendants launched a product and a false and deceptive marketing campaign that would flip over a decade of positive progress on its head in just a few short years.” The plaintiffs were attracted to Juul based on its flashy, colorful social media marketing campaigns and some were using the product by the time they were 15 years of age.
As vaping takes center stage in news stories across the country, there is no shortage of debate over the health effects of the practice. Hospitalizations and deaths have mounted over a mysterious vaping-related lung illness that has claimed close to ten lives and put hundreds in the hospital with some of them requiring assistance just to breathe. And, while these illnesses and their root causes have been difficult to track – one thing appears to be emerging quite clearly: when it comes to vaping nicotine, Juul went above and beyond to find, lure, and hook a new young generation on a chemical that millions struggle to quit using every day.