LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Juul Labs Inc. will pay $462 million to settle multiple lawsuits, including one filed by Los Angeles County, accusing the maker of flavored-nicotine products of violating state laws by targeting young people through its advertising and promotional campaigns, officials announced Wednesday.
California will receive $175.8 million of the total amount, the highest amount of any state settlement yet reached with Juul, according to California Attorney General Rob Bonta.
The money will help fund research, education and enforcement efforts related to e-cigarettes. Juul will also be prohibited from targeting youth in its advertising and promotion under the terms of the deal, Bonta said.
"Today is another step forward in our fight to protect our kids from getting hooked on vaping and nicotine," Bonta said in a statement.
"By using advertising and marketing strategies to lure young people to its products, Juul put the health and safety of its vulnerable targets and the California public at risk. Today's settlement holds Juul accountable for its actions and puts a stop to its harmful business practices. What's more, it will bring millions in funding to help California abate and prevent the harms of e-cigarettes and nicotine addiction."
"As a father and as our state's top law enforcement official, I remain committed to protecting the health, quality of life, and future of California's children," the AG said.
In November 2019, the California Department of Justice, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office and the county of Los Angeles sued Juul for allegedly violating multiple California laws and regulations, including those on privacy rights of minors, unfair competition and false advertising.
Austin Finan, a spokesman for Washington D.C.-based Juul, said that with the settlement, "we are nearing total resolution of the company's historical legal challenges and securing certainty for our future."
Finan added that underage use of Juul products has declined by 95% since 2019, citing the National Youth Tobacco Survey.
According to Bonta, researchers looking into Juul's sales between 2017 and 2019, during the height of its popularity surge, found that the company's growth was primarily driven by users under the age of 21.
"The company opted to illegally market its products to our children and now Juul is going to pay a steep price for its mistakes," Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement.
"Educating our youth about the harms of these types of products is essential to improving our communities," he said. "We hope that Juul and other companies understand that risking the health of our youth will not be tolerated and we will ensure that they follow the law."
The DOJ said the $175.8 million received by California will be used to support, among other things, programs to educate youth about the harms of vaping, and to help them quit its use, enforcement work carried out to implement California's ban on sale of flavored nicotine products, and research into the health effects of the use of e-cigarettes by youth.
Under the terms of the multistate settlement, Juul will also be required to stop targeting youth in its advertising and promotion, ensure retailers are complying with restrictions on selling to minors, establish minimum price requirements, and make its internal documents accessible to the public.
The settlement -- which must be approved by a Superior Court judge in Alameda County -- was negotiated by California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Mexico and New York.