Colorado is suing e-cigarette maker Juul Labs, Inc., alleging the company intentionally marketed its products to youth and misrepresented them as a healthy alternative to cigarettes.
The lawsuit comes after a nearly yearlong investigation led by Attorney General Phil Weiser, who claims Juul violated the Colorado Consumer Protection Act by targeting young smokers with attractive flavors and designs, as well as misleading information about the risks of vaping tobacco. The company pitched JUUL as a smoking cessation product and reduced risk tobacco product, according to a news release from Weiser’s office.
“Addiction to e-cigarettes poses major health risks to Colorado youth,” Weiser said in a statement. “JUUL must be held accountable for its reckless, deceptive, and unconscionable marketing that specifically targeted youth, downplayed its nicotine content and the presence of dangerous chemicals, and deceptively claimed its products as a healthy alternative to cigarettes and as a smoking cessation device.”
As part of the lawsuit, Juul targeted “cool kids” who would want to vape their products through ads and social media campaigns, used ambassadors to give out free samples at convenience stores and leveraged influencers to reach kids and young adults, contributing to Colorado’s e-cigarette epidemic, the news release said.
Flavors like fruit medley and cool mint also made the products more attractive to youth, as did the USB drive-like design of the smoking device, according to the news release.
According to the lawsuit, Juul also used deceptive affiliate marketing, misrepresenting e-cigs as a way to ween people off traditional tobacco cigarettes.
Juul allegedly paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to search engine optimization consultant, Quit Media, LLC, which operated a fake smoking cessation website under the name “Quit Smoking Community,” the statements reads. Officials said the website appeared to be operated by a nonprofit group focused on helping smokers, when in fact, it was a tool for Juul to engage in prohibited marketing.
Weiser and the Consumer Protection Division seek money for the damage caused to locals and called for Juul to halt its deceptive marketing practices.
In February, attorneys general from 39 states announced they were investigating Juul Labs for deceptive claims about nicotine in its products. And in October a Colorado teenager sued the vaping company in U.S. District Court, claiming the company’s electronic cigarettes caused him permanent injuries that will require lifelong medical treatment.
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