Today, Attorney General Keith Ellison, Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan and Governor Tim Walz announced that the state is suing JUUL Labs, a forerunner in the e-cigarette marketplace.
The lawsuit, filed in Hennepin County District Court, alleges among other counts that JUUL has violated multiple state consumer-protection laws, breached its duty of reasonable care, and created a public nuisance.
“My job is to protect Minnesotans from deceptive, fraudulent, and unlawful practices, and to protect their health and safety. It’s especially important for me to protect our young folks from deception and harm. I’m bringing a lawsuit against JUUL today because it has created a public nuisance that is centered around deceiving, addicting, and harming our young people,” said Attorney General Ellison.
“In Minnesota, we have a special duty to take on this fight,” Attorney General Ellison added. “Twenty years ago, we led the nation in taking on Big Tobacco. Now JUUL has stepped in to deceive consumers just like Big Tobacco did and has taken it to a whole new level. We’re not going to stand by while this company tries to deceive and addict a whole new generation of our youth.”
“Students across the state tell me they feel preyed upon by JUUL,” said Governor Tim Walz. “As a father of two teenagers and Governor of Minnesota, I’m saying enough is enough. We’re going to hold JUUL accountable for the vaping epidemic they started in Minnesota.”
“As the mom of a child with asthma, I think about a future where my daughter and kids in our community will be targeted by JUUL’s deceptive marketing practices if we don’t act now,” said Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan. “The rate of eighth graders using e-cigarettes has doubled in just three years. I’m proud to join the Attorney General in this fight and work to make sure eighth graders aren’t being taken advantage of by Big Tobacco.”
According to the complaint, JUUL used deceptive marketing to target youth, with its sleek, modern designs and popular flavors. JUUL also allegedly uses a higher concentration of nicotine than other e-cigarettes and even conventional cigarettes, making them highly addictive.
From a small, obscure start-up in 2015, JUUL grew to a value of $38 billion in 2019. In just one year, from 2017 to 2018, its revenues grew 800 percent. Its share of the e-cigarette market grew in just two years from one-quarter of the market in 2017 to three-quarters of the market in 2019.
Big Tobacco has recognized this growth. In December 2018, tobacco giant Altria — the owner of Philip Morris and other major cigarette brands — bought a 35 percent stake in JUUL for nearly $13 billion.