A Wisconsin Parent’s Guide to JUUL E-Cigarettes

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of middle and high school students using e-cigarettes is climbing significantly. In 2017, 2.1 million middle and high school students used e-cigarettes. Then, in just one year, the number of middle and high school students using e-cigarettes increased by 1.5 million.

In 2018, the CDC reported approximately 3.6 million teens using e-cigarettes. During 2018, approximately one of every twenty middle schoolers and one of every five high schoolers reported using an e-cigarette within the last 30 days.

Electronic cigarettes are—by far—the most common type of tobacco product used by middle and high school students in the United States. To protect our children, we must find out why e-cigarettes are so popular, what health effects our children may suffer, and how to protect their legal rights.

What Is a JUUL Device?

JUUL Labs is the largest manufacturer of e-cigarettes. JUUL devices look like USB flash drives and are designed to be charged in USB ports. This design makes JUUL e-cigarettes easier to hide from adults than traditional cigarettes and other types of e-cigarettes.

Disposable JUULpods that come in different flavors and nicotine strengths are inserted into the device, and then the user can inhale the vapor. This is known as vaping or JUULING. The JUUL device is easy to use and does not create the unpleasant smell or mess of a cigarette.

Marketing E-Cigarettes to Minors

Researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine found that JUUL e-cigarettes have a “cult level of popularity among school-aged adolescents.”

While JUUL Labs maintains that its products are meant for adults, the data indicates that many children are using e-cigarettes, and that may be due to the company's marketing practices.

Much of JUUL Labs' pre-2018 marketing has been removed from its website and social media accounts. However, Stanford researchers looked at JUUL Labs' advertising from when it came to the market in June 2015 until November 2018. After studying the company's website; social media sites including Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook; hashtags, and customer directed emails, the researchers found that JUUL Labs intended to reach the youth marketing and that:

  • Soon after its product launch, JUUL Labs held promotional events featuring music and cinema themes to appeal to teens. At these events, JUUL Labs provided free samples.
  • From 2016 through mid-2018, JUUL Labs' advertising focused on six main themes: pleasure/relaxation, socialization/romance, flavors, economics, holiday/seasons, style/identity, and switching/satisfaction.
  • Flavors play an essential part in the company’s marketing. Mango is the most advertised flavor.
  • JUUL Labs hired social media influencers to be brand ambassadors. These people were hired because of their internet popularity, and they were compensated for providing positive reviews (without disclosing that information).

Bright colors, young models, trendy advertisements, and a significant social media presence may have encouraged teens to try JUUL e-cigarettes and, ultimately, to become addicted to nicotine.

Marketing E-Cigarettes as Safe

In September 2019, the Center for Tobacco Products and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notified JUUL Labs that it had, “…represented that JUUL products are free of a substance, have a reduced level of or exposure to a substance, and/or that JUUL products present a lower risk of tobacco-related disease or are less harmful than one or more other commercially marketed tobacco products.”

To reach this conclusion, the FDA relied on evidence presented to a U.S. House subcommittee that included several instances of JUUL Labs representatives talking to students and saying things like:

  • JUUL is “much safer than cigarettes.”
  • JUUL is “totally safe.”
  • JUUL is “…a safer alternative than smoking cigarettes, and it would be better for the kid to use.”
  • “The FDA is about to come out and say that JUUL is “99% safer than cigarettes.”

Other evidence also led to the FDA to this conclusion.

E-Cigarette Health Effects on Teens and Children

While JUUL Labs may have marketed its e-cigarettes as safe, vaping is not safe.

JUULpods, even the mango flavored JUULpods, contain nicotine and other harmful substances. Some JUULpods contain as much nicotine as a pack of traditional cigarettes. Additionally, other ingredients such as formaldehyde, heavy metals, acrolein, menthol, and diacetyl can cause health problems including:

  • Serious lung disease. As of October 2019, no single e-cigarette product has been linked to an outbreak of serious lung disease. However, as of October 1, 2019, more than 1,000 lung injury cases related to e-cigarettes or vaping have been reported. Over 80% of these cases involve people under the age of 35 with 37% of lung disease sufferers being age 20 or younger. Other types of lung diseases such as COPD and popcorn lung may be risks of e-cigarettes, but e-cigarettes have not been on the market long enough yet to adequately assess these risks.
  • Addiction. Over time, addiction can lead to serious health conditions, including cardiovascular issues, reproductive problems, cancer, and immunosuppressant concerns. Additionally, addiction can have a serious psychological impact and lead to depression and anxiety.

You Can Protect Your Child’s Legal Rights

In July 2019, eight Wisconsin teenagers went to the hospital with coughs, trouble breathing, and extreme fatigue. Vaping was the suspected cause of their illnesses. Nationwide, and here in Wisconsin, other teens have begun to experience the adverse health effects of e-cigarettes. Others may get sick in the future.

Children under the age of 18 do not have standing to file a lawsuit in Wisconsin. Instead, it is up to you as your child’s parent or legal guardian to take action to protect your child’s future.

You may be able to sue JUUL Labs for the lung condition and addiction that your child suffers from its products.

Our experienced Wisconsin injury lawyers want to help you help your child. Call us today and set up a free consultation in our Milwaukee, Appleton, Green Bay, Madison, or Wausau office or let us come to your home or child’s hospital room. Let’s talk about what happened, what your child’s legal options are, and how to start a lawsuit, if appropriate.

Jason F. Abraham
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Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham