(AFP) — New York on Tuesday became the second state this week to sue Juul, the United States’ largest electronic cigarette manufacturer, for illegally targeting minors with its marketing campaigns.
The lawsuits come as the vaping industry faces intense scrutiny over an epidemic of lung ailments linked to e-cigarette use that has killed more than 40 people and sickened more than 2,000 in recent months.
The New York action, which comes a day after California filed a similar lawsuit, accuses Juul of misleading consumers by misrepresenting its products as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes and of illegally selling to minors.
“There can be no doubt that Juul’s aggressive advertising has significantly contributed to the public health crisis that has left youth in New York and across the country addicted to its products,” said state Attorney General Letitia James.
The 38-page complaint accuses Juul of glamorising vaping and appealing to youngsters by deploying colourful ad campaigns that feature young models.
E-cigarettes have soared in popularity among young people since they were introduced about a decade ago and Juul sales represent more than 64 percent of all e-cigarettes in the US.
The company has denied that its products — including mango, mint and creme brulee-flavoured e-cigarettes — were aimed at minors.
Ahead of a possible ban by health authorities, the firm this month pulled its mint-flavoured products after a study found it was the favourite flavour among high school students.
It now sells only three flavours in the US: two tobacco-flavoured varieties and menthol.
US federal regulators this summer opened an investigation into potentially “deceptive marketing” by Juul amid a surge in deaths related to vaping.
President Donald Trump has reportedly backed off from a proposed ban on certain flavours of e-cigarettes, fearing that such a move could cost him votes, US media reported on Monday.
The age limit for buying e-cigarettes and related products in New York was recently raised to 21 from 18.