Juul, Philip Morris sued for marketing to minors, deceptive advertising

It's one more criticism of the e-cigarette industry's effect on young people.

Laura Hautala
Laura Hautala
Laura Hautala Former Senior Writer
Laura wrote about e-commerce and Amazon, and she occasionally covered cool science topics. Previously, she broke down cybersecurity and privacy issues for CNET readers. Laura is based in Tacoma, Washington, and was into sourdough before the pandemic.
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Laura Hautala
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A teenager has sued Juul, saying the company engaged in deceptive marketing that targets minors.

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A 19-year-old Juul user sued the company Monday for targeting minors and using deceptive marketing practices. Christian Floss filed his complaint in federal court in Chicago, saying he's addicted to nicotine because of Juul, whose advertising Floss says leaves out critical safety information and copies the approach of tobacco companies that marketed to minors in the past.

Unless the court stops Juul, "the harms will continue as minor children will continue to be exposed to their deceptive youth marketing campaigns," Floss' lawyers said in his complaint. 

The lawsuit also names Altria and Philip Morris. Altria invested in Juul in December, and is the parent company of tobacco giant Philip Morris.

It's not the first sign of trouble for Juul and the vaping industry more broadly. The companies have been sued on similar grounds in other courts. San Francisco banned the sale of e-cigarettes in June. What's more, on Saturday, the CDC reported that almost 100 people have been hospitalized with lung issues after vaping. Also, the US Surgeon General said in a report in December that e-cigarette use is an epidemic among young people.

"Our product has always only been intended to be a viable alternative for the one billion current adult smokers in the world," said Juul spokesman Ted Kwong in a statement. "We have never marketed to youth and do not want any non-nicotine users to try our products."

Kwong also pointed to Juul's action plan to fight underage use of e-cigarettes as well as its support for laws that prohibit tobacco use for people under the age of 21.

"We believe the claims against Altria and Philip Morris USA are meritless and will move to dismiss the case at the appropriate time," Altria said in a statement. "Altria's minority stake in Juul provides no basis for liability against Altria or PM USA."

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