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Illinois sues Juul over alleged marketing tactics, misrepresentation

Illinois has filed a lawsuit against e-cigarette maker JUUL Labs Inc. for allegedly targeting the youth in its marketing practices and misrepresenting the dangers of its products.

The office of Attorney General Kwame Raoul disclosed the move on Dec. 12, saying it is part of the state's approach to addressing "a public health epidemic."

In the complaint, Raoul accused the San Francisco-based company of intentionally marketing its products to minors, misrepresenting the potency of nicotine in its products and misrepresenting its devices as smoking cessation products without having the FDA approval to do so.

Raoul said Juul's combination of an easily concealable device, sweet and fruity flavors, a less harmful nicotine solution and a youth-friendly marketing ploy overturned years of progress in fighting underage smoking. He also said Juul ignored warnings that the age verification system on its online store is flawed.

The state wants Juul to permanently stop from engaging in "unfair" and "deceptive" practices. It also wants the company to pay a civil penalty of $50,000 per deceptive or unfair act or practice and an additional $50,000 for each act or practice committed with the intent to defraud.

Raoul also urged the FDA to ban flavored tobacco products and prioritize enforcement actions against such items.

In an email to S&P Global Market Intelligence, a Juul spokesperson said the company has not yet reviewed the complaint, but it is "working cooperatively with attorneys general, regulators, public health officials, and other stakeholders" to fight underage vaping use and to convert adult smokers from combustible cigarettes.

Juul has been sued by other states and jurisdictions, including Minnesota, North Carolina, California and New York. The company is under scrutiny for its alleged role in the rise of underage vaping amid emerging cases of vaping-related deaths and illnesses.

Juul recently halted sales of its mint pods in the U.S. following the results of a survey by the American Medical Association that revealed the popularity of vaping products among teenagers.