Lake County files lawsuit against Juul

LAKE COUNTY, Ill. — The Lake County State’s Attorney filed a lawsuit against electronic cigarette company Juul on Tuesday.

The county filed a 70-page lawsuit seeking monetary relief as well as seeking education for a new generation who may think the Juul pods they are buying are better for them than cigarettes.

For years, medical experts have been trying to spell out the truth, and now legal experts are taking action.

“Despite knowing health risks surrounding nicotine, Juul uses marketing techniques made famous by Big Tobacco decades ago to spawn teen addicts hooked on nicotine,” Michael Nerheim, Lake County state’s attorney, said.

Those marketing techniques Nerheim mentioned means the ads that were used years ago to attract young users and hook them to addictive substances. The similarities between them and now are irrefutable — sexy images, glamorous ones, a younger generation playing sports or just having fun and looking cool.

According to one source, nicotine is the third most addictive drug — in line behind heroin and cocaine.

For that reason, Lake County said it’s time to stop e-cigarette companies professing to be smoking cessation outlets when in truth, prosecutors claim, it’s all about luring vulnerable teens.

Concentration levels are 6% and two to three times what you see in a standard cigarette. One Juul pod is equal to one pack of cigarettes.

One Stevenson High School senior, Vrushali Thakkar, said the e-cigarettes are engineered to attract her and her classmates with their fancy flavors.

"Everything from cool cucumber to creme brûlée. there is no doubt these flavors have been engineered to attract youth and normalize the industry," Thakkar said.

Since July 1, anyone who wants to purchase tobacco in the State of Illinois has to be 21 or older. However, changing advertising practices or getting rid of enticing flavors for kids still have some legal challenges ahead.

A spokesperson with JUUL Labs provided WGN with the following statement:

“JUUL Labs exists to help adult smokers switch from combustible cigarettes. We have never marketed to youth and do not want non-nicotine users, especially youth, to ever try our product. Our earliest marketing campaign was intended for adults in the 25-34 year-old demographic and lasted for six months in 2015. If one views the sales and revenue data, there is no evidence that it drove use, youth or otherwise. Our current marketing efforts feature adult smokers who offer their personal experiences about switching to JUUL products – all conveyed in a style, tone and message that is a direct appeal to current adult smokers. We have exited Instagram and Facebook and work constantly to remove inappropriate social media content generated by others.

"We have no higher priority than to prevent youth usage of our products which is why we have taken aggressive, industry leading actions to combat youth usage. We strongly advocate for Tobacco 21 legislation, we stopped the sale of non-tobacco and non-menthol based flavored JUULpods to our traditional retail store partners, enhanced our online age-verification process and strengthened our retailer compliance program with over 2,000 secret shopper visits per month. Finally, we continue to develop technologies to further restrict underage access."

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