A Wisconsin law firm representing Wisconsin counties fighting against the opioid crisis announced its has filed lawsuits in five states, including Wisconsin, on behalf of people who became addicted to vaping products as teenagers, according to a news release.
Crueger Dickinson LLC, based in Whitefish Bay, said Friday that lawsuits were filed in Wisconsin, Illinois, Florida, New Jersey and Washington on behalf of more than a dozen people who claim they became addicted to JUUL vaping products when they were teens.
"JUUL and its 35% owner Altria (formerly Phillip Morris) engaged in a false and deceptive marketing campaign aimed directly at teens," Crueger Dickinson wrote. "JUUL and Altria took advantage of the fact that the vaping industry was virtually unregulated until quite recently to launch a massive social media campaign directed towards teenagers around the country starting in 2015."
According to the release, the people who became addicted were exposed to serious health risks caused by using vaping products as adolescents.
One of the plaintiffs, Skylar Ledford, said in the release that she starting using JUUL e-cigarettes after seeing advertising on Instagram. She said if she had known the risks, she never would have started using the product.
In a statement to News 3 Now, a JUUL spokeman said the case is "without merit and we will defend our mission." The company said it has already launched a plan to combat underage use of its products, and denies advertising to juveniles.
"We have never marketed to youth and do not want any non-nicotine users to try our products," JUUL Labs said in the statement.
JUUL said it advocates for Tobacco 21 legislation, has stopped the sale of non-tobacco and non-menthol-based flavored JUULpods to its traditional retail store partners, enhanced its online age-verification process, strengthened its retailer-compliance program with more than 2,000 secret shopper visits per month, and shut down its Facebook and Instagram accounts. The company said it works to remove inappropriate social media content generated by others on those platforms, too.
In late August, JUUL began implementing measures to enforce age-purchasing rules by requiring a scan of government-issued ID at the point of sale.
"It was our hope that others in the category would self-impose similar restrictions to address youth usage, and it is now our hope that regulators will impose these same restrictions to protect youth and to preserve the opportunity to eliminate combustible cigarettes," JUUL said.
Wexler Wallace law firm in Chicago and the Greg Coleman law firm in Knoxville, Tennessee, are also representing plaintiffs in the case, Crueger Dickinson said.
In addition to the cases filed Friday, Crueger Dickinson said in the release that the law firms have been retained by additional claimants and "are investigating hundreds more cases around the country."