OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office is targeting a national e-cigarette company over its alleged popularity with younger Oklahomans.
On Tuesday, Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor filed a lawsuit against Juul Labs for violating the Oklahoma Consumer Protection Act.
According to the lawsuit, tobacco companies in the 1990s used aggressive marketing and sales tactics to increase sales, especially among young adults.
“The major tobacco companies recognized that increasing cigarette sales depended heavily on addicting individuals to their products from a young age. As a result, the major tobacco companies developed a comprehensive scheme to appeal to impressionable children and entice them to use their products,” the lawsuit claims.
Eventually, tobacco companies were held liable and had to stop those marketing techniques.
As a result, smoking among youth and adults plummeted.
However, the lawsuit claims some of that progress has been reversed due to e-cigarettes and their flavored products.
The Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office says Juul marketed products, claiming that e-cigarettes were safer than traditional cigarettes.
The lawsuit also says Juul didn’t include the word “nicotine” on the front of its packaging until 2018, and didn’t warn that its e-cigarettes were addictive.
The lawsuit says that when Juul did include a clear nicotine label on its products, it misrepresented the nicotine content.
“On its website, in advertisements, and in public statements, JLI represented that one JUUL pod was equivalent to one pack of cigarettes. This representation is false because the overall amount of nicotine in a JUUL pod is equivalent to 1.72 packs of cigarettes,” the lawsuit alleges.
The court documents also claim that Juul specifically targeted a youthful audience in its advertising campaigns, and relied on social media to build the brand.
“JLI knew, or should have known, that many of the individuals targeted as influencers for JUUL e-cigarettes were young and popular with adolescents, and that many or most of their followers were younger than the minimum legal sales age for e-cigarettes,” the lawsuit read.
The documents state that Juul also did not have adequate screening for online purchases to prevent minors from buying the products.
As a result, the lawsuit claims thousands of minors were able to purchase products using phony names.
Despite complaints from parents, the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office says Juul continued to allow several loopholes to the age-restriction.
Recently, Juul reached settlements covering more than 5,000 cases brought by 10,000 plaintiffs.
Financial terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but Juul said that it has secured an equity investment to fund it.
This comes after Juul reached another major settlement in September where the company agreed to pay nearly $440 million following a multi-state teen vaping probe. The company also agreed to refrain from several marketing practices that target young people.