Juul has faced heavy criticism for its role in contributing to the current vaping epidemic, particularly among teens. Its recent decision to stop selling most of its e-cigarette pod flavors online appears to be related to the federal government’s ongoing efforts to ban flavored vaping products.
Juul is one of the leading e-cigarette companies in the country. A Silicon Valley startup, Juul received a $12.8 billion investment from Altria (one of the world’s largest tobacco companies) in 2018. Since then, its sales have been in the billions of dollars.
However, Juul has also recently faced harsh criticism from the federal government and the public at large for what many say is its central role in the current teen vaping epidemic. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced a fight to end the sale of e-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have begun tracking statistics related to vaping lung injuries and deaths. According to the latest data from the CDC:
- “As of October 15, 2019, 1,479 lung injury cases associated with the use of e-cigarette, or vaping, products have been reported to CDC from 49 states (all except Alaska), the District of Columbia, and 1 U.S. territory.”
- “Thirty-three deaths have been confirmed in 24 states. . . . More deaths are under investigation.”
- Seventy-nine percent of patients diagnosed with lung injuries associated with the use of e-cigarettes are under the age of 35. Thirty-six percent are under the age of 21.
The CDC is also issuing a stark warning to teens, parents, and companies that sell vaping products: “The use of e-cigarettes, or vaping, products is unsafe for all ages, including youth and young adults. Nicotine is highly addictive and can harm adolescent brain development, which continues into the early to mid-20s.”
Juul Ceases Online Sales of Most Flavored E-Cigarette Pods, But Its Motives Are Suspect
After ceasing sales of flavored e-cigarette products in physical stores last year (“amid pressure from the Food and Drug Administration,” according to CNBC), Juul announced on October 17, 2019 that it was immediately suspending online sales of its crème, mango, fruit, and cucumber flavored products. While Juul is positioning the move as an effort to, “earn the trust of society and work cooperatively with regulators, policymakers, and stakeholders to combat underage use,” many people are questioning whether this is really the case.
Among other factors, the FDA and the Trump administration are working toward banning the sale of flavored e-cigarette products entirely, with the possible exception of tobacco-flavored products sold to adults. So, Juul’s move to limit its product offerings is being viewed by some as a preemptive attempt to shift its product and marketing strategy. There is also the fact that, as reported by the New York Times, online sales account for “less than 10 percent” of the company’s revenue. Then, there is the most glaring indication that Juul is not actually committed to curtailing underage use of its nicotine products: It is leaving one of the flavors most popular among teens – mint and menthol – on the market. According to CNBC:
“Among high school students who vape, mint and menthol was the second-most popular flavor behind fruit, according to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey. Wells Fargo analysts estimate that flavors, including mint and menthol, represent about 80% of Juul’s roughly $3.3 billion in sales over the past year.”
Teens and Adults Who Vape Are at Risk for E-cigarette, or Vaping, Product Use Associated Lung Injury (EVALI)
With more cases of vaping-related lung injuries being reported daily, and with medical researchers continuing to study the long-term effects of using e-cigarettes, the CDC has termed these injuries “e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury (EVALI).” The CDC has issued diagnostic and treatment recommendations for doctors who see patients who are complaining of symptoms linked to vaping, and it advises that, “[r]apid recognition by health care providers of patients with EVALI and an increased understanding of treatment considerations could reduce morbidity and mortality associated with this injury.”
Can Teens, Parents, and Other Adults Seek Financial Compensation for EVALI?
Vaping-related lung injuries are not limited to any specific manufacturer or product. Juul is among the largest vaping companies and its recent business practices have garnered national headlines, but several other companies sell vaping products as well. This includes vaping products containing THC, which have been linked to the majority of EVALI diagnoses according to the CDC.
Even if the federal government succeeds in banning the majority of vaping products, and even if companies are forced to shift their marketing efforts away from the teen demographic (similar to the tobacco companies in the 1990s), for many individuals and families, these efforts will come too late. Juul is already facing numerous lawsuits related to teen EVALI. And as awareness of the long-term effects of vaping continues to grow, we expect to see many more lawsuits filed against Juul and other e-cigarette companies as well.
E-cigarette companies know their products are dangerous. At this point, there is simply no way to deny it. They also know that their products and marketing efforts are attractive to teens. Yet, they are still conducting business in largely the same way – as demonstrated by Juul’s decision not to stop selling its mint and menthol pods. If you or your child has been diagnosed with EVALI, or if you have lost your teen to vaping, the e-cigarette companies deserve to be held accountable, and you owe it to yourself to speak with an attorney about your legal rights.
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D’Amore Law Group is a personal injury and wrongful death law firm that handles claims involving e-cigarettes and other ENDS products. If you have questions about your legal rights, we encourage you to contact us for a free initial consultation. To speak with an attorney at one of our three Oregon offices or our office in Vancouver, Washington, call us or send us a message online today.