The city of Chicago has reached a $23.8 million settlement with Juul Labs over claims the e-cigarette company aimed its vaping products toward an underaged market.
This agreement comes after a 2020 lawsuit in which the city accused Juul of violating two municipal codes by “marketing JUUL Products to youth” and “engaging in inadequate age verification,” among other complaints.
“E-cigarette businesses cannot be allowed to come in our city and boost their profits at the expense of minors,” Chicago’s public health commissioner, Dr. Allison Arwady, said in a statement.
The settlement also says that the agreement is not an admission by Juul Labs “of any liability or wrongdoing, or of the truth of any of Chicago’s allegations.”
“This resolution is another step in our ongoing commitment to resolve issues from the past,” a Juul spokesperson said in reference to a company “reset” that took place in 2019. The company is now focused on adult smokers who want to “to transition … away from combustible cigarettes while combating underage use of our products.”
Vape companies are often criticized for their flavored products, which data shows often attracts the attention of young and even under-age smokers. “Nationally, more than 8 of every 10 youth, aged 12-17 years who use e-cigarettes said they use flavored e-cigarettes,” the Illinois Department of Public Health writes.
As a part of its 2019 reboot, Juul stopped selling all flavored products except menthol and tobacco. Cucumber, mango, fruit medley, and other flavors were ditched due to their popularity among young smokers.
The city of Chicago banned the same of flavored e-cigaretes in September 2020.
“Chicago was one of the first cities in the nation to add e-cigarettes to its Clean Indoor Air Ordinance, the first big city to impose a vaping tax, and the first jurisdiction anywhere to include menthol in a flavored tobacco sales ban, which covers stores within 500 feet of high schools,” a city news release said at the time.
Juul has faced scores of lawsuits from cities, states and individuals over claimed youth-targeted marketing. In a lawsuit the State of Illinois filed against Juul in late 2019, the state describes ads with “young models in flirtatious and playful poses” and say Juul used social media to market. As a part of company’s “reset,” Juul suspended all marketing.
The city’s announcement said the Chicago Department of Public Health will use settlement funds to “prevent and reduce youth vaping through education, local policies, parent and teacher supports, cessation supports, improvements in data, and community engagement and outreach initiatives.”
Chicago’s settlement is one of the largest individiual settlements to date. In September 2022, Juul settled a similar suit with 33 states for almost $440 million. Several states have received payments agreements for sums usually between $10 and $20 million. North Carolina settled for $40 million.
The Chicago agreement also protects Juul going forward. Part of it stipulates that Chicago agrees to not “take any new legal action (excluding criminal prosecutions)” against Juul going forward, barring certain circumstances. Juul must pay the city $2.8 million in the next 30 days and then the remanidner of the settlement “later this year.”
”The most recent data show that in the past 5 years, vaping among Chicago’s school-aged children increased by 56%,” Joel Africk, president and CEO of Respiratory Health Association said in a city news release. “This settlement will go a long way in the Chicago Department of Public Health’s fight against chronic disease.”