News & Opinion

How This Week’s JUUL Settlement Will Be Used to Curb Youth Vape Use

What new regulations mean for local retailers

youth vape use
Vape use has gone down among youth, but is still near 20% for high schoolers. (AdobeStock)

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein announced this week that JUUL Labs agreed to a $40-million settlement to a lawsuit that claimed the company has been targeting its e-cigarette marketing toward teens, getting them addicted to nicotine in the process. 

Stein announced the settlement on Monday, along with plans to spend the money on programming to curb youth vape use while preventing future generations from getting hooked. Stein first sued the company in May 2019 following a seven-month investigation. 

“For years, JUUL targeted young people, including teens, with its highly addictive e-cigarette,” Stein said in his statement Monday, “It lit the spark and fanned the flames of a vaping epidemic among our children — one that you can see in any high school in North Carolina.”

JUUL agreed to pay $40 million to the state over six years, which will be used to fund programs to help people stop using e-cigarettes, prevent e-cigarette usage, and research the effects of the products. 

JUUL has also promised to do more to prevent underage usage of its products, including decreasing its social media presence, using models over 35 years old in advertising campaigns, and ceasing all marketing practices in areas where young people frequent, including outdoor advertising near schools or sponsorships for sporting events and concerts. 

The lawsuit mandates that any retailers keep JUUL products behind the counter and equip their stores with ID barcode scanners to weed out underage purchases. The order also implements a secret-shopper program to hold retailers accountable. 

As part of the settlement, JUUL also agreed to stop making claims comparing the health effects of using JUUL to those of using “combustible cigarettes” in its marketing materials, and to seek approval from the Food and Drug Administration before introducing any new flavors or nicotine levels in its products.  

North Carolina was the first of 13 states to file lawsuits against JUUL, and is the first to have reached a settlement. So what does it mean for local retailers? 

For Infinity’s End, a popular vape and smoke shop with four locations across Charlotte, not much, apparently. Frank Pietras, president of Infinity’s End Inc., said the changes are “within reason.” 

He told Queen City Nerve in an email that he “does not feel that [the lawsuit] will have much effect on our retail sales of JUUL products,” as his store already takes measures to keep underage smokers from buying the products, including prohibiting the sale of tobacco and nicotine products from the store’s website. 

Although vape use is decreasing among teens, it is still at 19.2% in high schoolers and 4.7% in middle schoolers, according to the FDA. 

Stein said his office aims to bring that number to zero. 

“This win will go a long way in keeping JUUL products out of kids’ hands,” his statement read, “keeping its chemical vapor out of their lungs, and keeping its nicotine from poisoning and addicting their brains.” 

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