Minnesota sues Juul

MINNEAPOLIS — Gov. Tim Walz and Attorney General Keith Ellison announced a lawsuit filed in Hennepin County District Court Wednesday against San Francisco-based Juul Labs, Inc., a manufacturer of e-cigarettes.

Ellison said the lawsuit was filed to protect the health of Minnesota young people. He accused JUUL of a number of things including targeting youth to buy their products and stepping into Big Tobacco’s shoes by contributing to the addiction many people.

The suit alleged Juul violated a number of Minnesota’s consumer protection laws, seeks to order them to stop targeting youth and to compensate people for the harms that have been caused.

“Juul produced products with higher nicotine than conventional cigarettes and failed to disclose it, then said they are a safe alternative to cigarettes, which they are not,” Ellison said. “Juul followed Big Tobacco’s highly-effective marketing campaign. Our lawsuit asks to find Juul is a public nuisance,” Ellison said.

Walz said 20 years ago, Minnesota Attorney General Humphrey held Big Tobacco accountable.

“Now, Big Tobacco’s name is Juul and it’s vaping,” Walz said. “This lawsuit is about protecting the well being of Minnesotans. We met with students this fall. They clearly understand what’s happening here. They know they were lied to. They’re ingesting nicotine in ways we’ve never seen.”

Walz said he’ll ask the Minnesota Legislature to quickly raise the tobacco age to 21 and get children and young people the help they need.

The lawsuit seeks to declare Juul created a public health nuisance with its vaping products. Ellison said he wants the firm to stop marketing to kids with sweet flavors and fund corrective public education to help people stop vaping. He said the lawsuit challenges Juul’s claim that its vaping products with liquid nicotine are a healthier alternative to cigarettes.

Vaping lawsuits have been filed by states, school districts and consumers. Some states have banned the products.

Last month, Juul announced it was trying to deter youth vaping by halting store sales of some e-cigarette flavors.

Ellison said litigation is needed to keep youth vaping from continuing to grow at very rapid rates.

Walz said an October survey showed a huge increase in young people’s use of e-cigarettes plus a low recognition of how unhealthy it is.

A Juul spokesperson said it’s current advertising includes testimonials from former adult smokers who switched from tobacco to Juul devices.

Juul is delivering nicotine does several times greater than those allowed in conventional cigarettes. Plus, the efficiency that the product delivers nicotine into the bloodstream boosts its addictiveness, making it more addictive than traditional cigarettes and poses serious health threats, according to a class action lawsuit filed in Pennsylvania.

The lawsuit alleges that nicotine is a carcinogen and is associated with cardiovascular, reproductive and immunosuppressive problems. It alleges vaping adversely affects the heart, eyes, reproductive system and kidneys.

Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.