NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Tennessee will receive around $13 million from JUUL Labs, Inc., as part of a nearly $435 million lawsuit settlement from the vape pen manufacturer, the Attorney General’s office announced.
Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti said Wednesday the approximately $13 million settlement comes following a two-year, bipartisan, 34-state investigation into JUUL’s marketing and sales practices.
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“JUUL tailored their product and advertisements to minors, thus luring them into vaping and, in some cases, nicotine addiction,” said Press Secretary Elizabeth Lane. “The company is paying for that misconduct. The Tennessee Attorney General’s Office appreciates the collaboration among our bipartisan group of attorneys general to hold JUUL accountable and stop their deceptive and harmful marketing practices.”
According to the AG’s office, JUUL was the dominant player in the vaping market until recently. The multistate investigation revealed JUUL rose to the top of the market by “willfully engaging in an advertising campaign that appealed to youth, even though its e-cigarettes are both illegal for minors to purchase and are unhealthy for minors to use.”
The investigation found that JUUL relentlessly marketed to underage users with launch parties, advertisements using young and trendy-looking models, social media posts and free samples, the AG’s office said. It marketed a technology-focused, sleek design that could be easily concealed and sold its product in flavors intended to attract underage users. To preserve its young customer base, JUUL relied on age verification techniques that it knew were ineffective, according to the AG.
In order to receive the settlement, the AG’s office filed a complaint and Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, the latter of which is “an important step toward ensuring JUUL will not engage in deceptive and harmful marketing practices in the future,” the office said in a statement.
In accordance with the provisions of the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, JUUL has agreed to refrain from:
- Youth marketing
- Funding education programs
- Depicting persons under 35 in any marketing
- Use of cartoons
- Paid product placement
- Sale of brand name merchandise
- Sale of flavors not approved by the FDA
- Allowing access to websites without age verification on the landing page
- Making representations about nicotine not approved by the FDA
- Making misleading representations about nicotine content
- Sponsorships/naming rights
- Advertising in outlets unless 85% of the audience is adult
- Advertising on billboards, public transportation or social media (other than testimonials by individuals over the age of 35, with no health claims)
- Use of paid influencers
- Direct-to-consumer ads unless age-verified
- Free samples
The Assurance of Voluntary Compliance also includes sales and distribution restrictions, including restrictions on where the products may be displayed or accessed in stores, online sales limits, retail sales limits, age verification and a retail compliance check protocol.
Tennessee signed onto the multistate investigation with Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maryland, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming. The investigation was led by Connecticut, Texas and Oregon.
According to Lane, the settlement funds will be used to “continue the Tennessee Attorney General’s work to protect consumers—including children—from harmful business and advertising practices.”
“The settlement provides for installment payments, beginning at the end of this year,” Lane told News 2.