September 6, 2022
Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes and Division of Consumer Protection Margaret Busse announced today a $438.5 million agreement in principle between JUUL Labs and 34 states and territories resolving a two-year bipartisan investigation into the e-cigarette manufacturer’s marketing and sales practices. In addition to the financial terms, the settlement would force JUUL to comply with a series of strict injunctive terms severely limiting their marketing and sales practices.
Attorney General Reyes stated the following,
Vaping is a serious and addictive health hazard for young people in our state that is often promoted as a safer alternative to cigarettes. JUUL, in particular, has used aggressive and manipulative marketing techniques to get a new generation hooked on nicotine.
The most important part of this settlement is the implementation of restrictive limits on JUUL’s marketing and business practices to further protect our youth. The monetary component of settlement is secondary albeit not insignificant.
Department of Commerce Executive Director Margaret Busse added,
Deceptive marketing tactics are never tolerated, but JUUL’s were especially despicable. 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.
JUUL was, until recently, the dominant player in the vaping market. The multistate investigation revealed that JUUL rose to 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 unhealthy for youth to use. The investigation found that JUUL relentlessly marketed to underage users with launch parties, advertisements using young and trendy-looking 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 be attractive to underage users. JUUL also 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 relied on age verification techniques that it knew were ineffective.
The investigation further revealed that JUUL’s original packaging was misleading in that it did not disclose that it contained nicotine and implied that it contained a lower concentration of nicotine than it actually did. Consumers were also misled to believe that consuming one JUUL pod was the equivalent of smoking one pack of combustible cigarettes. The company also misrepresented its product as a smoking cessation device without FDA approval to make such claims.
The states are in the process of finalizing and executing the settlement documents, a process that takes approximately 3-4 weeks. The $438.5 million would be paid out over six to ten years, with the amounts paid increasing the longer the company takes to make the payments. If JUUL chooses to extend the payment period up to ten years, the final settlement would reach $476.6 million. Both the financial and injunctive terms exceed any prior agreement JUUL has reached with states to date.
As part of the settlement, JUUL has agreed to refrain from:
- Youth Marketing
- Funding education programs
- Depicting persons under age 35 in any marketing
- Use of cartoons
- Paid product placement
- Sale of brand name merchandise
- Sale of flavors not approved by the FDA
- Allowing access to websites without age verification on the landing page
- Representations about nicotine not approved by FDA
- Misleading representations about the nicotine content
- Sponsorships/naming rights
- Advertising in outlets unless 85 percent audience is adult
- Advertising on billboards
- Public transportation advertising
- Social media advertising (other than testimonials by individuals over the age of 35, with no health claims)
- Use of paid influencers
- Direct-to-consumer ads unless age-verified, and
- Free samples
The agreement also includes sales and distribution restrictions, including where the product may be displayed/accessed in stores, online sales limits, retail sales limits, age verification on all sales, and a retail compliance check protocol.
Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, Wisconsin, Wyoming have signed on to the agreement. The investigation was led by Connecticut, Texas, and Oregon.