Credit: Wikimedia Commons | Credit: Lacey Chestnut

In the largest state settlement ever reached with JUUL, California will receive more than $175 million from the embattled e-cigarette company. Far-reaching in scope, several lawsuits claimed the popular vaping device maker actively targeted youth through advertising and promotional campaigns, a violation of state law. The California Department of Justice joined six other states — Colorado, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and New York — for a total of $462 million in settlements, with California receiving the highest amount. 

In a statement last Wednesday, April 12, California Attorney General Rob Bonta said the settlement funds will be used to “help California abate and prevent the harms of e-cigarettes and nicotine addiction” through youth education, medical research, and the enforcement of California’s recent flavored nicotine ban. 

“By using advertising and marketing strategies to lure young people to its products, JUUL put the health and safety of its vulnerable targets and the California public at risk,” Bonta said. “Today’s settlement holds JUUL accountable for its actions and puts a stop to its harmful business practices.”

The multi-state lawsuit followed Los Angeles County’s lead in filing against JUUL in 2019 in conjunction with a succession of efforts to curb nicotine access and addiction were ongoing both statewide and in Santa Barbara County. The county went smoke-free in 2017, and Goleta banned flavored tobacco products in 2021, preceding the statewide Proposition 31 which passed with 66 percent support in Santa Barbara County in 2022.

Smoking causes nearly a half million deaths per year in the U.S., and according to the AG’s office, studies show JUUL users include children not otherwise likely to start smoking, but they do so because of the highly addictive nicotine in the vape cartridges. A California Healthy Kids Survey for Santa Barbara County for 2019-21 showed that 15 percent of students reported using vapes, and there have been 91 recorded incidents in the Santa Barbara School District. 

JUUL has been closely associated with the rise of vaping among young people, and for good reason; at its most successful, the company’s growth was largely propelled by under-age users. Although JUUL claimed to be helping people get off nicotine, its flavors ranged from mango to crème brûlée, and advertisements overwhelmingly depicted young people paired with partying or dancing. Going forward, the deal prohibits the company from promoting its products to young people and requires that they keep internal documents available to the public.


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