Four more Indiana residents are suing Juul Labs Inc., saying the company targeted young people for its flavored e-cigarettes without warning that the products were highly addictive and dangerous.
It’s the second federal lawsuit in Indiana against the California-based company, following a similar but unrelated suit filed in August by the parents of a Carmel teenager.
The new lawsuit was filed Oct. 15 in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis by four plaintiffs: Mia Malasto of Indianapolis; Tyler Purvis of Noblesville; Virginia Rivera of Bourbon, Indiana, on behalf of her 17-year-old son; and Monica Whitehead of Indianapolis, on behalf of her 16-year-old son.
All four say they developed nicotine addictions after using Juul’s e-cigarettes and have developed breathing problems. They said if they had known about the addictiveness and health risks of vaping, they would not have bought or used the products.
The lawsuit accuses Juul of marketing the e-cigarettes as “youthful, innocent and carefree,” even though federal officials say they are more harmful than cigarettes.
Juul, based in San Francisco, said in a statement it did not design its marketing to appeal to youth and does not want any non-nicotine users to try its products.
“We need to urgently address underage use of vapor products and earn the trust of regulators, policymakers and other stakeholders,” the company said.
The Juul vaping system consists of a delivery device and a pod filled with flavored liquid containing nicotine that is vaporized through the delivery service.
Earlier this month, Juul announced it would discontinue online sales of its fruit, creme, mango and cucumber nicotine pods. The company had earlier halted sales of those flavors in stores amid pressure from the Food and Drug Administration.
Last month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said it would ban all flavors of vaping products except tobacco flavors. But the Trump administration is now considering backing away from that ban as e-cigarette makers push to preserve flavors for adults, Blooming News reported last week.
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.
The plaintiffs are 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; and tobacco maker Altria Group Inc., which owns a 35% stake in Juul.