State sues Juul over marketing

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BOSTON — Massachusetts sued electronic cigarette giant Juul Labs on Wednesday, accusing the company of deliberately targeting young people through its marketing campaigns.

Attorney General Maura Healey's office said the nation's biggest maker of e-cigarettes is responsible for "creating a youth vaping epidemic" with deceptive advertising tactics designed to lure in teen users.

"Our message today is simple: Juul cant profit off the addiction of young people," Healey said.

Healey announced her investigation into Juul in July 2018 and asked the company to turn over documents to determine whether it was tracking underage use of its products and whether its marketing practices were intentionally driving its popularity among young people.

Similar lawsuits against Juul have been filed in Pennsylvania, New York and California.

Juul has said it is committed to combating underage e-cigarette use and has denied ever targeting teenagers.

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"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 transition adult smokers from combustible cigarettes," Austin Finan, a spokesman for Juul, said in an email.

Massachusetts' lawsuit says Juul advertised its products on websites geared toward children and teens, and recruited celebrities and social media influencers to promote the products.

Efforts to crack down on teen e-cigarette use ramped up amid a rash of deaths and illnesses linked to some vaping products. Most who got sick said they vaped products containing THC.

As of January, four Massachusetts residents had died of vaping-related illnesses, officials said. The state had reported 36 confirmed cases to federal officials.

Nationally, more than 2,700 cases of vaping illness have been reported by all 50 states. There have been 64 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This month, the U.S. government began enforcing restrictions on flavored e-cigarettes in an effort to curb use among teens. Menthol and tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes will be allowed to remain on the market.

Juul already had dropped its best-selling mint and most other flavors before the ban was announced in early January, and it only sells tobacco and menthol.


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