Family of Carmel teen sues Juul, calling e-cigarettes addictive, dangerous

A Carmel family is suing Juul Labs Inc., saying the company’s e-cigarettes contain excessively high amounts of nicotine and do not include warnings that the products can become addictive.

Thomas McCullough said his 17-year-old son first tried Juul e-cigarettes in late 2015 as a high school freshman and quickly grew addicted. When his parents tried to get their son to quit, he experienced withdrawal symptoms, including severe headaches.

The nicotine in the e-cigarettes “altered his brain physically and chemically, and has put him at risk for a lifetime of lifelong health problems, to say nothing of the economic costs of nicotine addiction,” the complaint says.

The family filed the suit Aug. 20 in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis. It is the first such federal lawsuit in Indiana against Juul, according to a review of court filings.

Juul, based in San Francisco, said in a statement that its products are a “viable alternative” for the 1 billion adult smokers worldwide.

“We have never marketed to youth and do not want any non-nicotine users to try our products,” the company said. “Last year, we launched an aggressive action plan to combat underage use as it is antithetical to our mission.”

Juul added that the Indiana lawsuit is without merit.

However, the company has been facing a growing number of high-profile complaints and health warnings in recent months.

In December, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said parents, teachers, health professionals and government officials must take “aggressive steps” to keep children from using e-cigarettes, saying they are addictive and can have negative health effects. He pointed out that each Juul cartridge, or pod, contains as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, and that the company’s liquid nicotine mixture is specially formulated to give a smoother, more potent nicotine buzz.

Juul makes e-cigarettes in numerous flavors, including mint, menthol, mango, fruit, creme and cucumber.

Also last fall, a top official with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration called for measures to prevent the marketing of e-cigarettes directly to minors.

According to the Indiana lawsuit, each of Juul’s e-cigarettes contain three times more nicotine than is necessary to satisfy the nicotine cravings of an adult smoker and delivers those doses in an aerosolized vapor that is “intentionally designed to taste like candy.”

The company’s formulation uses a combination of nicotine salts and benzoic acid to deliver a nicotine kick more potent that cigarettes.

Since becoming dependent on Juul e-cigarettes, McCullough has become withdrawn, anxious, highly irritable and prone to angry outbursts, the lawsuit said.

The McCullough family is alleging that Juul failed to include nicotine warnings on its devices, pods and packaging.

The lawsuit is alleging product liability, saying that Juul designed, manufactured and marketed its e-cigarettes in a defective and unsafe condition, and without adequate warnings

The family is seeking an unspecified amount of damages. Also named as a defendant is Pax Labs Inc., the former parent of Juul until the company was spun off as a separate company in 2017.

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7 thoughts on “Family of Carmel teen sues Juul, calling e-cigarettes addictive, dangerous

  1. How about the parents do a little more parenting than blaming the company for their problem? Nobody wants to be accountable for their own actions anymore these days. That being said I am not a fan of cigarette or vaping companies.

    1. I agree with the above poster maybe the blame lies with a parents. You can’t tell me they didn’t know their child was vaping at age 15.

  2. How about the person that provided the e-cig to the minor be liable? Lets sue when we can’t take responsibility. No one should be able to sue in regards to nicotine addiction. How do you NOT know it is addicting and can kill you? SMH

  3. Wow, what will people think of next? You think inhaling a foreign chemical into your body and lungs won’t have a negative impact? Isn’t a 15 year old boy old enough and smart enough to realize that vaping can cause him harm? Parents…don’t you live with your son? You can’t see him vaping? Parent him…make him stop! People have known for decades that inhaling a foreign chemical and substance into your lungs can cause cancer but yet they still smoke and they still sue. We have created a victim society where no one is held accountable for their own actions and stupidity. If you want to smoke, then smoke (as long as I do not have to breathe it in); if you want to vape, then vape but don’t expect others to be legally and financially responsible for your poor decisions.

  4. It says right on the box: This product contains nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive chemical. At 15 he knows the meaning of addictive and pretty sure he was quite aware of all the warnings. As with the other comments, the parents should be going after those responsible for supplying him, but there’s no money in that. The company is not targeting minors. I’ve yet to see them advertise on Happy Meal boxes. I really wish the legal profession would stop encouraging people to file these types of suits. Sadly it’s a large source of revenue for them. I recently participated in a 3 month Juul study. I did not care for them and did not become addicted. If their son had become an alcoholic instead, would they be suing the alcohol industry? There are no warnings on the side of every bottle of alcohol that says drinking makes you stupid, impairs your ability to drive, and that if you do you’ll more than likely wreck and kill a lot of innocent people.

  5. Wow – why in gods name should vaping even exist as a business? It’s sickening that businesses seek to profit off peoples addiction. And it’s BS to say that these companies are not marketing to children. They went to the high schools to talk to these kids stating that this is a safe alternative to cigarettes. All the ads are made to look like vaping is hip and cool. It certainly isn’t targeted toward 40 somethings. I don’t see any 40-year-old vaping. I’m sure they’re out there so don’t give me any crap about that. It’s all about getting teenagers addicted so that these companies will have lifetime of income. These type of lawsuits are the only way to get rid of these snakes. Sure parents could do a better job but this is an avenue that’s available. The kid shouldn’t be tempted in the first place that’s the point. Yeah and those box warnings are real effective

    1. Absolutely correct – all of this is well documented in several other lawsuits throughout the country. Can someone explain to me why they are allowed to advertise on TV? Is the law so specific that it disallows cigarettes/cigars but has a loophole for vaping? If so, why hasn’t that been corrected by now?