North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein wants to hold e-cigarette giant Juul Labs accountable for designing, marketing, and selling its products with the intent of tapping markets of young consumers—and so he is suing Juul on behalf of the state. The AG’s lawsuit against the company also claims it mispresented both the levels and potency of nicotine in their e-cigarettes.

Juul’s attorneys attempted to upend Stein’s lawsuit by filing two motions—one requesting that the litigation cease and the other to asking that the amount of potential damages be limited.  

Vaping Post reported last week that Senior Judge Orlando Hudson, of the Durham County Superior Court, denied both motions in the interest of public health and the children of North Carolina.

North Carolina’s Position

Stein expressed satisfaction with the court’s decisions. In a press release dated October 30, 2020, the AG commented, “Juul targeted young people and misled them about their products. My goal in bringing this case is to protect them. I am pleased that the Court has allowed this important case to move forward. We cannot allow another generation of North Carolinians to become addicted to nicotine because of these reckless and illegal business practices.”

Per Stein’s lawsuit, Juul Labs’ actions violate North Carolina’s Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Trials in this matter are slated to commence in May 2021.

The company has been blamed for a rise in the number of young smokers, particularly because, as Stein asserts, Juul’s flavorings are appealing to younger palettes, and the marketing tactics used to promote the products strongly align with social triggers for this market. Furthermore, the manner in which the vaping products are packaged—as a pen or USB flash driver—makes them extremely easy to use and hide, even in school settings. The lack of odor from the vapor adds to the ease with which tweens and teens can engage in vaping without getting caught.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has responded to an alarming uptick in the number of young smokers by requiring manufacturers to ditch “unauthorized flavorings.”

Juul’s Position

In a statement issued to the Winston-Salem Journal, Juul wrote, “We will continue to reset the vapor category in the U.S. and seek to earn the trust of society by working cooperatively with attorneys general, legislators, regulators, public health officials and other stakeholders to combat underage use and transition adult smokers from combustible cigarettes.”

When the lawsuit was originally filed, Juul Labs controlled nearly three quarters of the vaping market in the U.S. The company has been valued at $10 billion, a drop from its valuation of $20 billion in January 2020.

To date, Juul continues to enjoy 55.1 percent of the e-cigarette market share, with R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co. coming in second at 26.8 percent.

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Sara Stephens is a freelance writer who has developed a hefty portfolio of work across several industries, with a strong emphasis on law, technology, and marketing. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, as well as various technology and consumer publications, both print and online. Sara also works as a freelance book editor, having developed and edited manuscripts for bestselling and novice authors alike, and as a verbal strategist for a Miami branding consultancy.