Seattle Public Schools JUUL Labs E-Cigarette Litigation
Seattle School District No. 1 v. JUUL Labs, Inc. et al.
United States District Court, Western District of Washington
Case No. 19-01814
Plaintiff Seattle School District No. 1 (“Seattle Public Schools”) filed this complaint against Defendants JUUL Labs, Inc. (“JUUL”), PAX Labs, Inc., Eonsmoke, LLC, and Altria Group, Inc., and its subsidiaries Altria Client Services, Altria Group Distribution Company, Nu Mark, LLC, and Nu Mark Innovations, Ltd. (collectively, “Altria Defendants”). Altria Group, Inc. is the parent company of Philip Morris USA and one of the major investors in JUUL Labs. Eonsmoke, LLC markets “JUUL-compatible” products and initiated youth-oriented social media campaigns such as “Doit4juul.”
Plaintiff alleges that Defendants have engaged in conduct which endangers or injures the health and safety of the employees and students of Seattle Public Schools by their production, promotion, distribution, and marketing of vapor products for use by minors in Seattle Public Schools and in a manner that substantially interferes with the functions and operations of Seattle Public Schools and impacts the public health, safety, and welfare of the Seattle Public Schools community. As alleged in its complaint, Seattle Public Schools believes that Defendants should help fund public health efforts to address the youth vaping epidemic that they created.
Plaintiff alleges that the epidemic rise in youth vaping is the result of Defendants’ deliberate actions. As alleged in Plaintiff’s complaint, JUUL studied the old marketing campaigns of Big Tobacco and intentionally followed its playbook.
Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants endangered the health and safety of the Seattle Public Schools community by:
- Actively seeking to enter school campuses, targeting children as young as eight through summer camps and school programs, extensively targeting youth through social media campaigns, and recruiting “influencers” to market to teens;
- Engaging in marketing tactics specifically designed to mislead children and youth and to ensnare minors into nicotine addiction, including by explicitly adopting tactics prohibited from Big Tobacco, with the knowledge that those tactics were likely to ensnare children and youth into nicotine addiction, including using billboards and outdoor advertising, sponsoring events, giving free samples, and by selling vapor products in flavors designed to appeal to youth;
- Engaging in advertising modeled on cigarette ads and featuring youthful-appearing models and designing advertising in a patently youth-oriented fashion;
- Directing advertising to youth media outlets and media designed to appeal to children and youth, such as Instagram and other social media channels;
- Hosting youth-focused parties across the United States, at which free samples were dispensed and in which vaping was featured prominently across social media;
- Formulating JUULpods and Eonsmoke products with flavors with the knowledge that such flavors appealed to youth and with the intent that youth become addicted or dependent upon vapor products; and
- Promoting and assisting the growth of the vapor market with knowledge that vapor products were being purchased and used by large numbers of youth.
Plaintiff’s complaint also alleges that Altria, after initially marketing its own vapor products, announced that it would be making a $12.8 billion investment in JUUL, the biggest equity investment in United States history and one that gave Altria a 35% stake in JUUL while handing JUUL access to Altria’s regulatory, lobbying, logistics, and distribution experience. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant JUUL and the Altria Defendants formed an association-in-fact enterprise—the JUUL Enterprise, to maintain and expand JUUL’s massive, and ill-gotten, share of the e-cigarette market.
If you are a Superintendent or General Counsel for a school district and you are concerned with the impact that JUUL use or vaping habits are having on your school district, please contact Keller Rohrback at 800-776-6044 or firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your concerns and potential legal claims.
To learn more about the multidistrict JUUL litigation, click here.
Complaint – 11/07/2019