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Louisville Files Federal Lawsuit Against JUUL

Jefferson County Attorney Mike O'Connell announcing lawsuit against JUUL
Jefferson County Attorney Mike O'Connell announcing lawsuit against JUUL

Louisville has filed a lawsuit against Juul Labs, Inc., the largest manufacturer of e-cigarette and vaping products.

Mayor Greg Fischer said the suit was filed Wednesday in California and joins more than 200 other cases. Fischer said Juul contributed to a surge of nicotine use and addiction, and the city’s lawsuit aims to prevent further harm.

“I’m proud of what we have done, but it’s clear we have to do more to protect the health of our children and the health of our community,” Fischer said. “We will fight to ensure that those who fuel this epidemic are part of ending it, and that they do everything possible to reverse the harm they’ve caused.”

The use of e-cigarettes, or vaping, has become a growing health concern in Kentucky. City officials urged residents last September to stop vaping amid an outbreak of lung illnesses associated with vape use. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in its 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey that an increasing number of youth in Kentucky high schools reported using vaping products. Kentucky has partnered with a national texting service to help youth who want to quit vaping, but experts have said that moreis needed to combat the problem. 

So far there have been seven confirmed cases ofvaping-related illnesses in Kentucky. And the state announced its first probable vaping-related death last week.

Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell said Juul made a “surgical strike” in marketing its products to youth, using attractive flavors to appeal to teens.

“Juul misled customers to believe its products were not as harmful as traditional cigarettes, and Juul concealed the unparalleled potency of its e-cigarette,” O’Connell said. “Folks, Juul lied to us. And we’re going to go after them to get a refund for the wreckage of those lives that this has cost.”

A spokesperson for Juul responded to Louisville's lawsuit and the others Wednesday afternoon via email:
"We remain focused on resetting the vapor category in the U.S. and earning the trust of society by working cooperatively with attorneys general, regulators, public health officials, and other stakeholders to combat underage use and convert adult smokers from combustible cigarettes. As part of that process, we recently  stopped  accepting orders for our Mint JUULpods in the U.S., suspended all broadcast, print, and digital product advertising in the U.S., are investing in scientific research to ensure the quality of our FDA Premarket Tobacco Product Application (PMTA) application and expanding our commitment to develop new technology to reduce youth use. Our customer base is the world’s 1 billion adult smokers and we do not intend to attract underage users. To the extent these cases allege otherwise, they are without merit."
Fischer said litigation might cost millions, but will be paid for by law firms Hendy Johnson Vaughn Emery and Wagstaff & Cartmell LLP who were hired as outside counsel for the city. 

This story has been updated. 

Kyeland Jackson is an Associate Producer for WFPL News.