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Minnesota sues e-cigarette maker Juul over youth vaping rise

Keith Ellison

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison sued Juul Labs on Wednesday, accusing the e-cigarette maker of unlawfully targeting young people with its products to get a new generation addicted to nicotine.

Posted: Dec 4, 2019 2:31 PM

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison sued Juul Labs on Wednesday, accusing the e-cigarette maker of unlawfully targeting young people with its products to get a new generation addicted to nicotine.

The lawsuit filed in Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis seeks to force Juul to stop marketing to young people; fund a corrective public education campaign in Minnesota on the dangers of youth vaping; fund vaping cessation programs; disclose all its research on vaping and health; and surrender all profits from its allegedly unlawful conduct.

“They have deceived and misled Minnesota consumers of all ages, creating a public nuisance, and especially harmed our young people," Ellison said at a news conference with Gov. Tim Walz. “Juul is by far the dominant e-cigarette manufacturer in America, and it's growing fast.”

Ellison declined to put a dollar figure on how much money the state will seek in damages and civil penalties. But he said it could be in line with the state's landmark $7 billion settlement with the tobacco industry in 1998. He said the San Francisco-based company followed “Big Tobacco's playbook” of marketing to young people.

Juul issued a statement saying it's “working cooperatively" with attorneys general, regulators and other stakeholders to prevent underage use of its products and to switch adult smokers away from conventional cigarettes. The company said it recently stopped accepting orders for mint-flavored pods in the U.S. and suspended all its broadcast, print and digital product advertising in the country.

“Our customer base is the world's 1 billion adult smokers and we do not intend to attract underage users," the statement said.

Juul Labs — which is facing a growing number of state and federal investigations into its marketing and sales — is about one-third owned by tobacco giant Altria, the maker of Marlboro and other popular brands.

The Minnesota lawsuit is separate from lawsuits filed by several other states in the last two weeks.

Ellison said Juul created a public nuisance and violated Minnesota's consumer protection laws by developing “products with higher, more potent and more addictive doses of nicotine than conventional cigarettes, and other e-cigarettes, then not only failed to disclose that to its customers, but represented that its products were safe alternatives to cigarettes."

Walz said Juul knew the harm when it deliberately targeted Minnesota's children “for simple greed and simple profit.” Using the money Minnesota received under the 1998 settlement, he said, the state brought youth tobacco use way down “until the scourge of vaping" came along.

The attorney general's office hired two outside law firms, Robbins Kaplan and Zimmerman Reed, to represent the state. Robbins Kaplan also represented Minnesota in the epic litigation that led to the 1998 settlement, which forced the industry to turn over millions of pages of previously undisclosed documents on its practices.

Walz and Ellison warned that the new lawsuit could take years and draw an army of high-priced company lawyers, as the 1998 case did.

“And they will use their merchant of death playbook to tell us we're bad parents, to tell us we have bad kids, to tell us that we should have known," Walz said “... But my message to Juul if they're listing today is, you can hire your attorneys, you will have your day in court, but we will bring the righteous justice of the state of Minnesota upon you."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 62993

Reported Deaths: 1731
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin19873842
Ramsey7827270
Dakota4610106
Anoka3841115
Stearns292820
Washington222748
Olmsted179123
Nobles17777
Scott163422
Mower11112
Rice10468
Blue Earth9465
Wright9185
Carver8993
Clay79440
Sherburne75310
Kandiyohi7141
St. Louis62120
Todd4302
Lyon4263
Watonwan3671
Freeborn3611
Nicollet35613
Steele3562
Benton3253
Winona26616
Beltrami2640
Crow Wing25214
Le Sueur2301
McLeod2240
Martin2105
Chisago2091
Goodhue2059
Otter Tail2044
Cottonwood1780
Becker1621
Pipestone1589
Polk1564
Waseca1561
Carlton1470
Itasca14612
Douglas1442
Isanti1370
Unassigned13546
Dodge1310
Pine1290
Murray1251
Chippewa1171
Morrison941
Wabasha930
Brown922
Faribault920
Meeker872
Rock860
Sibley862
Koochiching833
Cass802
Jackson790
Pennington751
Mille Lacs733
Fillmore720
Renville675
Lincoln610
Grant563
Swift561
Roseau530
Yellow Medicine530
Pope480
Houston450
Aitkin411
Norman400
Kanabec372
Redwood370
Hubbard360
Wilkin353
Marshall290
Wadena280
Mahnomen271
Big Stone250
Red Lake240
Lake220
Stevens180
Clearwater140
Traverse130
Lac qui Parle80
Cook50
Lake of the Woods40
Kittson30

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 50230

Reported Deaths: 955
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk10612210
Woodbury377052
Black Hawk320066
Linn245689
Johnson213820
Dallas193235
Buena Vista180012
Scott176815
Dubuque173431
Marshall145627
Pottawattamie136729
Story118915
Wapello93435
Muscatine86048
Webster8498
Crawford7393
Cerro Gordo65617
Sioux6533
Warren5861
Tama55729
Jasper48427
Wright4821
Plymouth47912
Clinton4344
Dickinson3844
Louisa37814
Washington30510
Boone2723
Franklin25512
Hamilton2551
Bremer2337
Clarke2063
Clay2021
Carroll2012
Des Moines1992
Emmet1934
Shelby1881
Hardin1860
Marion1830
Floyd1673
Benton1621
Jackson1601
Poweshiek1608
Allamakee1584
Mahaska14217
Henry1404
Guthrie1385
Buchanan1351
Cedar1351
Jones1352
Butler1312
Lee1294
Madison1282
Hancock1242
Humboldt1241
Delaware1231
Lyon1232
Pocahontas1212
Harrison1131
Cherokee1101
Clayton1093
Winneshiek1021
Page1000
Taylor1000
Iowa981
Kossuth970
Mills941
Monona920
Winnebago920
Palo Alto910
Fayette900
Calhoun872
Cass871
Jefferson870
Sac860
Osceola850
Grundy831
Union811
Mitchell800
Monroe758
Lucas734
Worth680
Davis612
Montgomery614
Chickasaw600
Appanoose523
Howard510
Fremont450
Greene420
Keokuk401
Adair380
Van Buren381
Ida330
Audubon291
Decatur270
Ringgold231
Wayne211
Adams170
Unassigned20
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