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Juul Settles Suit with Chicago: Marketing Vapes to Minors Settlement

In a significant development, the city of Chicago has reached a settlement of $23.8 million with Juul Labs, a prominent e-cigarette company, regarding allegations of marketing their vaping products to minors. This agreement follows a lawsuit filed in 2020 by the city, which accused Juul of violating municipal codes by targeting youth in their marketing efforts and failing to implement adequate age verification measures. Dr. Allison Arwady, Chicago’s public health commissioner, emphasized the importance of preventing e-cigarette businesses from profiting at the expense of minors.

The settlement explicitly states that Juul Labs does not admit any liability or wrongdoing, nor does it confirm the veracity of the allegations made by the city. A spokesperson for Juul highlighted that this resolution represents another step in their ongoing commitment to address past issues. Since 2019, the company has undergone a “reset” and shifted its focus towards assisting adult smokers in transitioning away from combustible cigarettes while combating underage use of their products.

Vape companies often face criticism for their flavored products, which tend to attract the attention of young and even underage smokers. The Illinois Department of Public Health reports that over 80% of youth aged 12-17 who use e-cigarettes opt for flavored variants. As part of their reboot in 2019, Juul discontinued the sale of all flavored products except menthol and tobacco. This decision stemmed from the popularity of flavors like cucumber, mango, and fruit medley among young smokers.

In September 2020, the city of Chicago took a firm stance against flavored e-cigarettes by banning their sale. This move added e-cigarettes to Chicago’s Clean Indoor Air Ordinance, making the city one of the first in the nation to impose a vaping tax and the first jurisdiction worldwide to include menthol in a flavored tobacco sales ban, which applies to stores within 500 feet of high schools.

Juul has faced numerous lawsuits from cities, states, and individuals concerning allegations of youth-targeted marketing. In a lawsuit filed by the state of Illinois in late 2019, the state described Juul’s advertisements featuring “young models in flirtatious and playful poses” and the company’s use of social media for marketing purposes. As part of their reset strategy, Juul suspended all marketing activities.

According to the announcement by the city, the Chicago Department of Public Health intends to utilize the settlement funds to prevent and reduce youth vaping through various initiatives. These efforts include education programs, the implementation of local policies, support for parents and teachers, cessation programs, improvements in data collection, and community engagement and outreach.

The settlement reached by Chicago is one of the largest individual settlements to date. In September 2022, Juul settled a similar lawsuit with 33 states for nearly $440 million, while several other states received payment agreements ranging from $10 million to $20 million. North Carolina settled for $40 million.

Moreover, the agreement also provides protection for Juul moving forward. It includes a stipulation that Chicago will refrain from taking any new legal action against Juul, excluding criminal prosecutions, except under specific circumstances. Juul has agreed to pay $2.8 million to the city within the next 30 days, with the remaining amount scheduled for payment later this year.

Joel Africk, president and CEO of the Respiratory Health Association, highlighted the concerning trend of vaping among school-aged children in Chicago, which has increased by 56% in the past five years. He expressed optimism that the settlement will significantly contribute to the Chicago Department of Public Health’s ongoing fight against chronic diseases associated with vaping.

FAQs

1. Why did Chicago sue Juul Labs? Chicago sued Juul Labs over allegations of marketing their vaping products to minors and inadequate age verification measures, among other complaints.

2. What is the settlement amount between Chicago and Juul Labs? The settlement between Chicago and Juul Labs amounts to $23.8 million.

3. What does the settlement agreement state regarding Juul Labs’ liability? The settlement agreement explicitly mentions that Juul Labs does not admit any liability or wrongdoing and denies the truth of the allegations made by Chicago.

4. What changes did Juul Labs make as part of its reset strategy? As part of its reset strategy in 2019, Juul Labs stopped selling all flavored products except menthol and tobacco due to their popularity among young smokers.

5. How will the settlement funds be used by the Chicago Department of Public Health? The Chicago Department of Public Health plans to utilize the settlement funds to prevent and reduce youth vaping through education, local policies, parent and teacher supports, cessation programs, data improvements, and community engagement and outreach initiatives.

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