E-cigarette company Juul reached a $22.5 million settlement in a lawsuit brought by the state of Washington that accused it of marketing its product to underage buyers. File Photo by Mylesclark96/Wikimedia Commons
April 13 (UPI) -- Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson ordered Juul to pay $22.5 million to settle a lawsuit accusing the e-cigarette company of marketing its products to underage customers.
In addition to the payment, set to be distributed over four years, the settlement requires Juul to halt its advertising that appeals to youth, stop most of its social media promotion, and implement strict practices to confirm the age of consumers that purchase Juul products including a "robust secret shopper program" and online purchase age verification.
"Juul put profits before people," Ferguson said. "The company fueled a staggering rise in vaping among teens. Juul's conduct reversed decades of progress fighting nicotine addiction, and today's order compels Juul to surrender tens of millions of dollars in profit and clean up its act by implementing a slate of corporate reforms that will keep Juul products out of the hands of underage Washingtonians."
Ferguson said his office will use the funds from the settlement to create a new Health Equity unit.
In addition to altering its targeting of young consumers, Juul will be required to ensure that its marketing accurately represents "the content and effects of the nicotine in its products."
Under the secret shopper program, Juul will also be required to conduct no fewer than 25 secret shopper checks at Washington Juul retailers each month for at least two years, as well as at least one check-in each of the state's counties per year.
Juul must also send a regular report to the state attorney general's office detailing the results of the secret shopper program every 90 days.
A Juul spokesman told The Hill the settlement represents "another step in our ongoing effort to reset our company and resolve issues from the past."
"We support the Washington state attorney general's plan to deploy resources to address underage use, such as future monitoring and enforcement," the spokesman said. "The terms of the settlement are consistent with our current business practices and past agreements to help combat underage use while offering adult smokers access to our products as they transition away from combustible cigarettes."