WASHINGTON, DC – Attorney General Brian L. Schwalb today announced that JUUL Labs, Inc. (JUUL) will pay $15.2 million – the largest litigated settlement the DC Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has secured under the Consumer Protection Procedures Act in District history – to resolve allegations that it marketed nicotine products to District youth and misled District consumers about the product’s highly-addictive qualities. At least 50% of the settlement amount will be used directly to mitigate the public health damages JUUL’s products caused. In addition to the financial settlement, JUUL must abide by strict advertising restrictions that prevent it from engaging in harmful marketing practices in the future.
“JUUL preyed on children for profit, implementing an intentionally deceptive, manipulative marketing campaign targeting underage users with the intention of creating addicted customers,” said AG Schwalb. “JUUL knew how addictive and dangerous its products were and actively tried to cover up that medical truth. The Office of the Attorney General prioritizes protecting District children’s health and safety and ensuring our kids can live healthy, hopeful lives. Now, thanks to the diligent work by our legal teams, JUUL has ended its harmful, illegal conduct and must put millions of dollars towards mitigating the public health damage it caused.”
Over the last several years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Surgeon General have warned that the country is in the midst of a teenage vaping epidemic. Usage levels are spiking at an unprecedented rate, reversing a decades-long decline in smoking rates among young people. According to the FDA and the Surgeon General, in 2018 some 3.6 million kids in the United States used e-cigarettes, including 1 in 5 high school students. Thousands of District teenagers now use e-cigarettes as a result of JUUL’s dishonest marketing practices.
In November 2019, the Office of the Attorney General filed a lawsuit alleging that JUUL deliberately targeted underage consumers; failed to verify ages of purchasers; and deceived consumers about the content, strength, and safety of its products.
As a result of OAG’s investigation and lawsuit, JUUL must abide by strict advertising restrictions, including:
- Prohibitions on advertising in social media channels or influencers used by youth, on billboards and public transportation, and on using representations of anyone under the age of 35 in advertising;
- Stringent ID verification and adult signature requirements for online purchases on JUUL’s website;
- Restrictions on comparisons to tobacco products unless authorized by the FDA;
- Disclosure of nicotine content in milligrams and as a percentage of total volume;
- Limitations on bulk online and in-person purchases;
- Restrictions on low-cost promotional giveaways of JUUL products;
- A retailer compliance “secret shopper” program and penalties for failure; and
- A depository of publicly available documents for further research, paid for by JUUL.
To ensure compliance with the above terms, JUUL must designate and maintain a Compliance Officer, who shall be a corporate senior-level employee responsible for ensuring compliance with this Consent Judgment and shall act as a point of contact with OAG to address any compliance-related issues.
JUUL must pay $15.2 million to the District, which will have discretion to use the funds for any lawful purpose, including:
- Programs that provide cessation assistance to District residents who were exposed to any Electronic Nicotine Delivery System (ENDS) while under the age of 21.
- Education or prevention programs that are designed to prevent or reduce use of ENDS by District residents who are under the age of 21;
- Research in support of preventing ENDS use by District residents who are under the age of 21 by independent third parties;
- Research into the health effects, whether short, medium, or long-term, of the use of ENDS by persons, including persons under the age of 21;
- Programs or equipment that are designed to abate the impact that ENDS and other nicotine products have had on District students, schools, school districts and to prevent such impact in the future;
- Efforts to mitigate the impact of, including by enforcing District law with respect to, disposable ENDS, nicotine products, and companies that have not taken steps similar to those described in this settlement agreement to limit access to or usage of nicotine products by District residents who are under the age of 21;
- Additional consumer investigation, enforcement, and education efforts; and
- Reimbursement for the costs of the investigation and litigation, including attorney's fees.
A copy of the settlement agreement is available here.
This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Matt James, Director of the Office of Consumer Protection Adam Teitelbaum, and now-Workers’ Rights and Antifraud Chief Graham Lake. David Hoffman, Assistant Attorney General, also provided valuable representation of District agencies in response to extensive third-party discovery.
The District of Columbia coordinated with and entered into this Consent Order alongside the Attorneys General of California, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and New York.
Resources for Residents Concerned About E-Cigarettes
OAG works to protect District consumers from unfair and misleading business practices—including the dangers of e-cigarettes. As part of this public interest work, OAG put together resources for parents with questions about e-cigarettes and vaping, including a fact sheet with tips on how to speak with your children about the dangers of vaping.