BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is suing e-cigarette manufacturer JUUL, accusing the company of deliberately marketing their addictive product to underage customers.
Healey said her office's investigation into the company's practices found they didn't target adults seeking to quit smoking, but instead wanted to get young people to start smoking.
"JUUL knew it was selling to kids," Healey told those gathered at a press conference Wednesday morning. "Our lawsuit sheds new light on the company's intent to target young people, and we are going to make them pay for the public health crisis they caused in Massachusetts."
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey unveils a lawsuit against JUUL, accusing the company of marketing to kids and teens. (AG Maura Healey's office)
In a video posted to her office's social media accounts, Healey laid out how the company bought ads on websites frequented by children and teenagers, like those for Nick Jr., Cartoon Network, and the magazine Seventeen. She said they hired young influencers to use their products, and used young, attractive models in their marketing campaigns.
"Internally they wondered if the models were too young, but JUUL cast them anyway," she said.
JUUL allegedly worked with 850 stores in Massachusetts that the FDA cited for tobacco sale violations. Those stores allegedly failed the company's own secret shopper inspections.
Healey also said the company solicited emails without regard to a customer's age, and that JUUL's customer service helped customers under the legal buying age evade the law in purchasing their products.
In a statement to WBZ NewsRadio, Austin Finan, JUUL's Senior Director of Communications, said the company hadn't yet reviewed the legal complaint, but that "our customer base is the world's 1 billion adult smokers and we do not intend to attract underage users."
"We remain focused on resetting the vapor category in the U.S. and earning the trust of society by working cooperatively with attorneys general, regulators, public health officials, and other stakeholders to combat underage use and transition adult smokers from combustible cigarettes," Finan wrote in a statement. "As part of that process in the U.S., we are preparing comprehensive and scientifically rigorous Premarket Tobacco Product Applications, stopped the sale of flavored pods other than Tobacco and Menthol in November, halted our television, print and digital product advertising, implemented a $1 billion restructuring plan, refrained from lobbying the Administration on its draft flavor guidance and support the final policy."
WBZ NewsRadio's Karyn Regal (@Karynregal) reports