North Carolina has become the first U.S. state to hold Juul Labs accountable for what state officials say was the e-cigarette maker's role in encouraging vaping among young people.
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein on Monday announced a settlement with Juul under which the company will pay $40 million and make changes to its business practices. The lawsuit, originally filed in May of 2019, alleged that Juul unlawfully marketed and sold its products, including sleek vaping devices and sweet and fruit-flavored pods, to children.
"For years, Juul targeted young people, including teens, with its highly addictive e-cigarette," Stein said in a statement. "It lit the spark and fanned the flames of a vaping epidemic among our children — one that you can see in any high school in North Carolina."
The agreement requires Juul to stop marketing products to customers under the age of 21, cease advertising on social media and near schools, and abide by other restrictions. The state will use the settlement money, to be paid out over six years, to fund treatment programs for teens who use e-cigarettes and for other anti-vaping measures.
Anti-smoking advocates call for stronger action
Juul, which is partially owned by tobacco industry giant Altria Group, has argued that vaping is a safer alternative to conventional cigarettes.
The company said the North Carolina settlement "is consistent with our ongoing effort to reset our company and its relationship with our stakeholders, as we continue to combat underage usage and advance the opportunity for harm reduction for adult smokers."
Matt Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, told CBS MoneyWatch that the settlement marks "a step in the right direction," but said that Juul continues to reach young people across the nation. He urged the Food and Drug Administration to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and high-nicotine products.
"Unless, and until, the FDA does act, we won't solve the problem," he said.