Virginia Gets $16.61 Million in Agreement with JUUL After Investigation into Marketing Targeted at Youth

Virginia will get $16.61 million over six to 10 years as part of a $438.5 million agreement in principle with JUUL after an investigation into whether the e-cigarette manufacturer marketed its products to underage users.

Youth vaping is an epidemic, and from the get-go JUUL has been a leader in the e-cigarette industry. But JUUL targeted young people with deceptive social media advertising campaigns and misled the public about the product’s dangers. My office will continue to go after and hold accountable companies that market addictive products like e-cigarettes to minors, with no concern for their health or well-being,” Attorney General Jason Miyares said in a press release announcing the agreement.

Under the terms of the agreement with Virginia and 34 other states, JUUL is blocked from practices including youth marketing, depicting people under 35 years old in marketing, paid product placement, most advertising on social media, and the use of paid social media influencers.

Miyares’ release said that although it is unhealthy and illegal for youth to use e-cigarettes, JUUL came to prominence by using advertising that appealed to youth.

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. It marketed a technology-focused, sleek design that could be easily concealed and sold its product in flavors known to be attractive to underage users. JUUL also manipulated the chemical composition of its product to make the vapor less harsh on the throats of the young and inexperienced users. To preserve its young customer base, JUUL relied on age verification techniques that it knew were ineffective,” Miyares’ release states.

Virginia-based tobacco products manufacturer Altria owns a 35 percent stake in JUUL, worth $12.8 billion when the agreement was signed in 2018. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is trying to ban JUUL’s e-cigarettes, and in July, Altria said its stake in the company was worth just $450 million, according to CNBC.

In a Tuesday announcement of the agreement, JUUL said, “This settlement with 34 states and territories is a significant part of our ongoing commitment to resolve issues from the past. The terms of the agreement are aligned with our current business practices which we started to implement after our company-wide reset in the Fall of 2019. With today’s announcement, we have settled with 37 states and Puerto Rico, and appreciate efforts by Attorneys General to deploy resources to combat underage use.”

“We remain focused on the future as we work to fulfill our mission to transition adult smokers away from cigarettes – the number one cause of preventable death – while combating underage use. We recently submitted an administrative appeal, based on science and evidence, to FDA, demonstrating that its marketing denial order (MDO) of our products was substantively and procedurally flawed and should be rescinded. We believe that once the FDA does a complete review of all of the science and evidence presented, as required by law, and without political interference, we should receive marketing authorization. As we go through the FDA’s administrative appeals process, we continue to offer our products to adult smokers throughout the U.S,” the release added.

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network.  Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “A Youth Vaping a JUUL” by Vaping360. CC BY 2.0.

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