Amid a nationwide backlash against vaping, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra sued the nation’s biggest e-cigarette maker, alleging that Juul Labs deliberately marketed and sold electronic cigarettes to teenagers.
California is the second state to sue the company, following a North Carolina lawsuit in May. The privately held company has been besieged by legal troubles, including multiple investigations by Congress, federal agencies and several state attorneys general.
“Juul ran big tobacco’s playbook and the results were predictable — millions of teens and young Americans now use their product,” said Becerra, at a Sacramento press conference announcing the lawsuit. “In California, we will not allow kids to be lured in by deceptive practices.”
The lawsuit argues that Juul’s past marketing efforts online and in major U.S. cities used bright colors and youthful models to attract underage users. Federal law bans sales to those under 18.
“We’re not going to wait for the federal government,” Becerra added.
In September, President Trump said his administration would look to ban all non-tobacco flavored e-cigarette products.
Federal health officials are expected to soon release plans for removing most vaping flavors from the market, and Juul has said it will support and comply with that government policy.
The multibillion dollar vaping startup, the best-selling e-cigarette brand in the U.S., has been widely blamed for helping spark the teen vaping craze, as The Associated Press reported.
Austin Finan, the company’s spokesman told Fox News by email: “While we have not yet reviewed the complaint, we remain focused on resetting the vapor category in the U.S. and earning the trust of society by working cooperatively with attorneys general, regulators, public health officials, and other stakeholders to combat underage use and convert adult smokers from combustible cigarettes.”
He added: “As part of that process, we recently stopped accepting orders for our Mint JUULpods in the U.S., suspended all broadcast, print, and digital product advertising in the U.S. and are investing in scientific research to ensure the quality of our FDA Premarket Tobacco Product Application (PMTA) application and expanding our commitment to develop new technology to reduce youth use. Our customer base is the world’s 1 billion adult smokers and we do not intend to attract underage users.”
The San Francisco-based company said in early November it would stop selling mint-flavored electronic cigarettes in the U.S. after new government research showed Juul to be the top brand among high schoolers who use e-cigarettes and that many prefer mint.
Juul also has suspended its U.S. advertising and halted sales of all but two of its flavors, menthol and tobacco. Additionally, the company shuttered its social media accounts, tightened age verification for online sales and replaced its CEO.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.