JUUL lawsuit filed in Santa Barbara County Superior Court

Isaac Sieblink, Staff Writer

Last week, a lawsuit was filed in the Santa Barbara County Superior Court against JUUL Labs, Inc. for failing to “evaluate and warn about the dangers of its products.” The complaint was made on the basis that the company “falsely markets and falsely advertises its e-cigarette system as a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes.” 

This lawsuit has been one of a growing number brought against the company as health problems related to vaping and e-cigarette usage have come to the surface, particularly among young people. 

Surveys from the 2017-2018 school year show that between 10% and 16% of Santa Barbara County high school students have recently used e-cigarettes, along with 4% of seventh graders. 

“Cases of sudden lung damage and breathing problems have been appearing across the country. According to the California Department of Public Health, there have been 90 cases in California since June , including one in Santa Barbara County.

 According to ongoing investigations, patients suffering from these sudden lung ailments share a common history of e-cigarette usage. 

The California Department of Public Health has issued an advisory warning to discontinue all e-cigarette usage until investigations have concluded, particularly products “sold by unlicensed retailers … We do not know yet if all of the people in the country with this illness use the same vape products, or if the products were contaminated with the same substance.”

The current lawsuit centers around a complaint raised by plaintiff Broc Smith. Smith started using JUUL products while in high school and two years later reported breathing issues along with nicotine addiction leading to regular cigarette use. He blames JUUL for not warning consumers of the dangers of their products along with falsely advertising said products. 

According to the case, “the JUUL system delivers more potent doses of nicotine than traditional cigarettes. Under the guise of a safe alternative, JUUL thus exposes … non-regular-tobacco users to highly addictive products.” 

In addition, the case states that “JUUL markets and advertises its e-cigarettes and pods deliberately to attract minors and young adults, including those who have never been regular tobacco smokers.” In conflict, the official mission statement on the JUUL website is “to eliminate cigarettes. JUUL products are intended for adult smokers who want to switch from combustible cigarettes.” 

The company also stated that “youth use of vapor products is detrimental to our mission, and to our business.” In addition, their website clearly states that “it is illegal to sell or resell our product to minors” under the age of 21.

A case management conference has been scheduled for January of next year. Representing Plaintiff Smith is attorney Raymond Boucher, along with personal injury firm Salim and Beasley. 

Three simultaneous lawsuits have also been filed against JUUL in San Francisco County Superior court. In addition, many locales have considered or implemented bans on certain nicotine/vaping products; Los Angeles county has voted to ban sales of flavored tobacco products, as per the Los Angeles Times; there is also a push to ban vaping across all of California.