Juul, a company founded by two Stanford students who said they wanted to make cigarettes obsolete, is now under fire.
On June 7, North Carolina attorney general Josh Stein will enter a Durham courtroom with a mission: proving that the e-cigarette company Juul Labs purposely targeted teenagers with its nicotine-rich products.
If Stein—who in 2019 became the first state attorney general in the U.S. to sue Juul—is successful, the vaping company may be in for a world of hurt.
Hundreds of lawsuits against Juul, many of which were consolidated into multi-district litigation in California, are pushing allegations mirroring Stein’s. They claim Juul purposely designed its stylish, flash-drive-like devices and flavored nicotine e-liquids to appeal to teenagers.
The product launched with a flashy marketing campaign that, the complaints argue, was likewise meant to appeal to young people. The suits allege Juul planted the seeds for a youth addiction epidemic that would make nicotine cool again after years of historic declines in cigarette smoking.
The fall from grace began in June 2015, when Juul was just a promising innovation from a startup called Pax Labs. Juul’s launch, almost six years to the day before the company will stand trial in a North Carolina courtroom, marked both its beginning and the beginning of its end.