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Juul Lawsuit Filed

August 14, 2019

Lake County State’s Attorney Michael G. Nerheim and his legal partners are announcing they have filed a lawsuit in the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit Court of Lake County against e-cigarette provider Juul Labs for intentionally pushing teens to become hooked on nicotine-aided e-cigarettes through deceptive social media marketing campaigns.

Nerheim has joined the Chicago law firms of Romanucci and Blandin, LLC; Hart McLaughlin and Eldridge, LLC; and Edelson, PC., to formally file the lawsuit Tuesday, making it the first of its kind filed in the United States.

“Just like cigarette companies did in the past, Juul preyed on teens by using advertisements that glamorized their product in order to get kids hooked on nicotine,” State’s Attorney Nerheim said. “It will take years of education and money to right the wrongs and cover the damages caused by Juul’s marketing campaigns. To that end, the company should be held accountable for the massive expected cost to undo the damage they created.” 

Like the ads promoted by big tobacco in the past, the goal of Juul’s predatory marketing campaign was to recruit new users at a young age by getting them hooked on the nicotine in e-cigarettes, according to the Lake County complaint. To accomplish this, Juul – the owner of more than 75 percent of the e-cigarette marketplace – launched a massive online advertising campaign that specifically targeted teenagers on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. On social media, Juul pushed teens to take pictures of themselves using the product, then asked teens to post those pictures on social media using the Juul hashtag. 

Through that advertising campaign, Juul consistently manipulated adolescents to use its product. Those ads were designed to convey powerful messages like popularity, peer acceptance and a positive self-image from using Juul, and the ads consistently used attractive young models smoking Juul’s e-cigarette while partying in provocative settings. By doing this, Juul knowingly lured kids into smoking by targeting them with their sleek product and promises of popularity, according to the complaint. 

Juul’s predatory strategies of targeting teens became so obvious that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration opened its own investigation into Juul’s youth advertising campaign. In response, Juul announced they would “shut down” its social media accounts and made promises to stop focusing their marketing toward teens. They also changed their marketing strategy by trying to pass themselves off as a “stop smoking cure,” then declared they would stop selling flavored nicotine pods. But Juul’s promises proved empty, as ads targeting youth still exist on the internet and flavored pods continue to be sold. 

The public health damage stemming from this predatory advertising scheme is immense. Studies have proven that Juul’s nicotine delivery system and the nicotine contained in a single Juul pod is more potent than the nicotine found in traditional cigarettes. In addition, nicotine becomes even more addictive when used by adolescents. Studies have also shown nicotine affects brain development, attention, cognition, and raises the risk of teens becoming addicted to other dangerous drugs.

Juul’s deceptive practices have already led to widespread adolescent addiction to Juul’s dangerous product. Those addictions can only be undone through expensive anti-addiction and cessation treatment, and anti-e-cigarette education for the hundreds of thousands of teens they hooked on their product. The cost to undermine their expensive marketing campaigns will ultimately result in public health departments putting out their own expensive marketing campaigns, paid for by taxpayers in Lake County, Illinois, and the United States of America. 

The complaint filed in the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit of Lake County seeks relief from the expensive burden for the people in the state of Illinois and the thousands of adolescents who call it a home. Juul has caused a public health crisis that has already devastated the lives of many children and damaged numerous families. Accordingly, the people of the state of Illinois, by and through Lake County State’s Attorney Michael G. Nerheim, seeks civil penalties and all appropriate injunctive relief to address, remedy, and prevent further harm to Illinois residents. 

Copies of the complaint filed this morning will be available on the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office website at:

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