Bucks County sues Juul for using deception to hook kids on nicotine

Jim Melwert
January 29, 2020 - 1:05 pm
Bucks District Attorney Matt Weintraub accuses JUUL Labs, Inc and new Jersey-based JUUL pod manufacturer EonSmoke, LLC of purposely targeting children.

Jim Melwert/KYW Newsradio

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UPDATED: 5:17 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Bucks County is the latest to sue e-cigarette manufacturer Juul, claiming the company uses deceptive advertising to target teens and children. 

"We are seeking reparations from their ill gotten insidious gains, restitution, civil penalties and injunctive relief we want to stop this from poisoning our children," Bucks District Attorney Matt Weintraub.

The 63-page complaint accuses Juul Labs, Inc and new Jersey-based Juul pod manufacturer EonSmoke, LLC of purposely targeting children, as it quotes a co-founder of the company boasting about how they learned to glamorize the product and downplay addictiveness from tobacco industry documents that were made public as part of their settlement in the mid-2000s.

Weintraub says Juul launched a massive online and social media advertising campaign "to target and manipulate youth."

"They know exactly how to reach their target audience," he said.

"It’s the old adage, 'Why did you rob all those banks?' and the bank robber says, 'That's where the money is.' Juul and (EonSmoke), they’re targeting the children because that’s where their target victims reside."

The suit is asking for undetermined damages, but Weintraub says, in addition to no longer targeting children, he also wants the company to pay for health care, awareness, addiction services, and future studies of long-term effects on children.

JUUL-compatible pods manufactured by EonSmoke
Jim Melwert/KYW Newsradio

Central Bucks West school nurse Carol Klein says they've seen a rapid increase in vaping-related illnesses, including spiked heart rate or blood pressure and several seizures.

"And this year in particular, I’ve had many students come pleading for help to quit. And trying to help these students quit is a very difficult situation," Klein said.

Bensalem School District Superintendant Sam Lee says Juul was designed from the start to appeal to teens.

"The devices available are designed for discreet use, and this means vaping is occurring in all areas, including classrooms, and not just hidden away in restrooms," he said.

Weintraub was joined for Wednesday's announcement by Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele, who filed a similar suit last year.

In a statement, a Juul Labs spokesperson said: "We remain focused on resetting the vapor category in the U.S. and earning the trust of society by working cooperatively with local officials, regulators, public health officials, and other stakeholders to combat underage use and convert adult smokers from combustible cigarettes. As part of that process, we stopped the sale of flavored pods other than Tobacco and Menthol in November, suspended our television, print and digital product advertising, refrained from lobbying the Administration on its draft flavor guidance and support the final policy. Our customer base is the world’s 1 billion adult smokers and we do not intend to attract underage users."

Related: Montco sues vape-maker Juul, says company targeted minors