Although e-cigarettes were first marketed as a way for smokers to quit smoking, not only has it been proven that they are not an effective way to quit smoking, but e-cigarette companies, like Juul, have actually gotten young people addicted to nicotine by targeting teens and young adults who had not previously been smokers.
Despite the fact that vaping has been marketed as a safe alternative to smoking, the reality is that it has contributed to thousands of cases of lung cancer. In addition to nicotine, many e-cigarettes also contain THC, which is a psychoactive ingredient.
Dr. Ngozi Ezik, the Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, has reported that 201 cases of lung illnesses in Illinois alone have been confirmed as vaping-related illnesses. The youngest patient was just 13 years old. Five deaths in Illinois have been linked to vaping.
Juul is the most popular e-cigarette company by far, and it is now facing a consumer fraud lawsuit by the state of Illinois for having targeted teens. Among other things, the lawsuit alleges Juul has been instrumental in undoing decades of work by both government agencies and anti-tobacco activists towards reducing smoking rates among teens. Despite the initial success of those efforts, which saw teen use of nicotine drop from 36% in 1997 to 5% in 2017, new data shows that the use of e-cigarettes among both teens and middle school students is currently on the rise.
Although consumers must be 18 or older to buy e-cigarettes, a recent government survey showed that as many as 25% of high school students currently use e-cigarettes. According to the lawsuit, the bathroom in both high schools and middle schools is now commonly referred to as “the vaping room”.
Illinois is not the first state to sue Juul. Last year, New York and California both filed similar lawsuits against the e-cigarette manufacturer for allegedly targeting teens in their marketing materials.
The lawsuits are a good start towards holding e-cigarette manufacturers accountable for the damage they have already done to an entire generation of Americans, but regulators are considering more drastic action for the future. Options that range from a ban on flavored e-cigarettes (which is key to getting kids addicted to the product) to a ban on e-cigarettes altogether are being considered.
In addition to the fact that Juul’s sweet flavors appeal to younger users and cover up the higher nicotine content of e-cigarettes, the lawsuit also alleges that the company’s use of social media marketing was deliberately designed to attract younger users.
A spokesman for Juul released a statement saying the company is eager to cooperate with government authorities and attorneys general in order to reduce underage smoking and help adult smokers transition to using e-cigarettes from standard cigarettes. He also denied that Juul ever intended to attract underage smokers, a sentiment that is strengthened by the fact that the company has recently taken voluntary measures to make their e-cigarettes less appealing to younger consumers, including removing several of their sweeter flavors and suspending all their U.S. advertising.
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