Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced Wednesday that her office is suing e-cigarette manufacturer Juul "for its role in profiting off young people and creating a new generation of nicotine addiction."
Flanked by student anti-vaping activists, Healey said an investigation conducted by her office found that Juul specifically targeted teens, purchasing ads on youth focused websites and television stations like Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. She said they also intentionally chose models and images that appealed to young people for its ads, even seeking to recruit celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Kristen Stewart.
"And it worked," she said. "In Massachusetts alone, over half of high school students report trying an e-cigarette. Some kids are so addicted they're sleeping with a device under their pillow."
Juul could not immediately be reached for comment.
Massachusetts is not the first state to sue Juul. But Healey said what makes this suit significant is that it reveals for the first time internal documents and photographs from Juul's original ad campaign.
"This is the first real window into Juul's marketing plan and what it did to target our kids," she said.
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The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in Massachusetts Superior Court and seeks damages for those impacted by Juul's practices.
Healey said the documents uncovered by her office show that Juul originally considered marketing e-cigarettes to adult cigarette users, but rejected that campaign in favor of one that appealed to a younger audience. She said the documents show that employees and board members were worried their models looked too young, but Juul used them anyway.
"This isn't about getting adults to stop smoking cigarettes," she said. "It's about getting young people to start vaping."
Healey opened an investigation into Juul Labs, Inc. in 2018 over concerns about the marketing and sale of electronic smoking devices and products to minors.
"Let me be clear -- this is a public health crisis in Massachusetts and around the country and we're suing the company that started it all," the attorney general said.
"The bottom line is Juul has hurt a lot of people here in Massachusetts. This is out of control."