Initially filed in 2019, King County, WA targeted the company that produces and markets Juul e-cigarette products, Juul Labs Inc. In the lawsuit, the plaintiff claimed that Juul purposefully advertised its flavored vapor devices to teenagers and a younger generation. Although the e-cigarette company challenged the claims brought against the company, the parties involved have agreed to settle the Washington state lawsuit for $23 million. While based on the settlement agreement, King County may accumulate an additional $1.8 million, the compensation awarded in the lawsuit will aid in the funding of local tobacco-use prevention programs.
Precisely, these proposed youth tobacco prevention efforts intend to highlight the dangers of youth tobacco use and may attempt to dissuade youths from engaging in the use of tobacco products. In addition, the settlement money will help fund programs that provide tools and resources to young individuals who currently already use tobacco and wish to quit. Despite Juul Labs Inc.’s assurance that it has never established advertising campaigns tailored to a youth audience, as part of the settlement, the company was assigned the duty of instilling a secret shopper program that confirmed and solidified the actual ages of the company’s true market consumers.
In the company’s defense, while the original lawsuit addressed issues in Juul’s marketing options, Juul Labs Inc. has always admitted to creating advertising campaigns that target adults who are looking to find alternatives to cigarettes. Regardless of the company’s intended audience, since 2019 in the United States, it has ceased digital, print, and broadcast advertising. In addition to the news of King County’s settlement, in the beginning of April, six states and the District of Columbia settled related lawsuits with Juul Labs Inc. In those lawsuits, the e-cigarette company agreed to settle for a total of $462 million. While the settlements may appear positive for the states that have filed, legal counsel for King County has fair uncertainties regarding the company’s ability to meet its financial obligations.