Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro filed a lawsuit on Monday against the e-cigarette maker Juul Labs. Shapiro claimed that the company has been improperly marketing their products to young people and misleading customers about the health risks associated with vaping.
Pennsylvania’s lawsuit seeks to ban all Juul products in the state. Shapiro said he wants to prevent the use of the e-cigarettes among young people, given that the health risks associated with vaping remain unclear.
The lawsuit alleges nearly a quarter of high school students in Pennsylvania reported using e-cigarettes, The Delaware County Daily Times reported.
Shapiro announced the lawsuit at a press conference in front of students at Radnor High School. The venue reflected the suit’s particular focus on the effect of Juul products on minors.
Shapiro said in his statement that Juul Labs “knowingly targeted young people with tactics similar to the tobacco companies' playbook.”
E-cigarettes began as a way to help adults quit smoking. However, in recent years, there has been increasing concern over their popularity among teenagers.
While the full effect of vaping remains unclear, it has been linked to a number of health problems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that there have been 2,758 hospitalizations and 64 deaths caused by vaping in the United States in the past year.
Frank Leone, a leading pulmonologist at Penn Med, told The Daily Pennsylvanian that vaping does not break addictive habits and is not a healthy alternative to cigarettes, and that mechanisms of potential lung injury and toxicity were not properly considered when vape products were first introduced to the market.
In recent years, Juul Labs suspended the sale of a number of its products. In November 2017, the company began to restrict the retail sale of its flavored vaping products, following pressure from the Food and Drug Administration. In 2018, the FDA conducted a surprise inspection of Juul Labs headquarters, prompting the company to suspend online sales of similar products.
Pennsylvania’s suit joins a list of similar suits filed in other states, including New York, Minnesota, and California.
Two days after Shapiro's announcement, the Massachusetts District Attorney’s office filed a similar lawsuit against the company, alleging that Juul Labs’ marketing targets young people, contributing to a youth vaping epidemic.
“There is no proof these e-cigarettes are safe and until there is, we need to get Juul products off shelves and out of the hands of young people,” Shapiro said at the press conference.