April 15 (UPI) — A Florida law firm has filed a class-action lawsuit Monday against e-cigarette maker JUUL and tobacco company Altria Group, saying they’re violating federal racketeering laws by targeting teens.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of a 15-year-old in Sarasota County, Fla., says Altria, which owns tobacco giant Phillip Morris USA, recently bought a 35 percent stake in JUUL after the e-cigarette leader promised it wouldn’t market its products to young people.
Attorneys said their teenage plaintiff is addicted to nicotine contained in Juul pods.
“JUUL has captured a broad segment of the adolescent and teenage market by applying the same techniques historically used by cigarette makers,” attorney Scott Schlesinger of Schlesinger Law Offices in Fort Lauderdale said in a statement.
“The companies tell regulators they are not marketing to that vulnerable age group while they simultaneously and knowingly created a massive increase in youth nicotine addiction.”
The firm says 78 percent of middle and high school students have noticed e-cigarette advertising and one in five high school students has used the product. JUUL owns 75 percent of the e-cigarette market, the suit said.
Research shows that JUUL e-cigarettes have high levels of nicotine and its pods contain as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.
Neither JUUL nor Altria immediately responded to the suit.
“JUUL Labs share a common goal with the Surgeon General and other federal health regulators — preventing youth from initiating on nicotine,” the company said in December.
“We have taken dramatic action to contribute to solving this problem, which is why we implemented the JUUL Labs Action Plan to address underage use of JUUL products.”
Federal lawmakers said last week they will investigate Juul’s marketing practices.