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Harris County Attorney sues Juul

From the inbox:

Christian Menefee

Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee filed a lawsuit Thursday in California state court against e-cigarette company JUUL and several of its executives. Harris County is the first governmental entity in Texas to join the nationwide fight to hold JUUL accountable for the deliberate and deceptive marketing of its highly addictive and destructive products to young people.

“JUUL took its marketing plan from the tobacco industry’s template by creating an image that would lure teenagers. JUUL’s vaping devices are designed to appear like a slick, high-tech gadget that’s attractive to young people. The brand even offers kid-friendly flavors like mango and cool mint,” said Harris County Attorney Menefee. “Cigarette companies were long ago barred from engaging in this type of marketing. Our youth do not deserve to be exploited by a company looking for a lifetime of profits. My office will hold JUUL accountable for its exploitative and negligent practices designed to create the next generation of nicotine users. Lawsuits were a major reason that federal regulators finally reined in cigarette industry, which has caused so much death in this country. I will continue that tradition by making sure JUUL doesn’t get away with the same behavior.”

The lawsuit contends JUUL targeted young people by using social media to showcase the product as a lifestyle brand. The company also adopted a “Make the Switch” campaign to mislead the public that e-cigarettes were benign smoking cessation devices, even though JUUL was never designed to break addictions.

In fact, JUUL’s e-cigarettes were designed to maximize addiction through its patented nicotine delivery mechanism. The CDC’s website warns of nicotine’s harmful effects on the developing brains of adolescents, and how JUUL’s products have also caused lung and cardiovascular injuries. JUUL also took advantage of the loose regulations for e-cigarettes, and made sure its products and advertising do not contain any health risk warnings.

As part of this lawsuit, the Harris County Attorney’s Office is also suing cigarette giant Altria, which owns 35% of JUUL and other companies like Philip Morris. Altria was instrumental in helping JUUL develop its marketing tactics, using its well-developed playbook.

You can see a copy of the lawsuit here – it’s quite long. This was filed in California because that’s where Juul is based, but there’s more to it than that. There’s already a bunch of lawsuits against Juul over its marketing practices in California, and they are basically combined in what is known as a Judicial Council Coordinated Proceeding, their term for when there are multiple similar lawsuits across different judicial districts. This Law.com article, which is mostly paywalled, gives a bit of an outline of what that means. If you look at the Harris County filing, you’ll see that it’s also in this JCCP, in the same court that the Law.com story references.

As I understand it, these cases all have similar claims, some filed by government entities and some by private plaintiffs, and a subset of lawyers from them will lead the litigation. The idea is for Harris County to be among them. Harris is the first county in Texas to file this kind of lawsuit against Juul. The county needed to get permission from the Attorney General’s office to hire outside counsel for the suit, on a contingency basis, which it has received. Other state AGs have taken action themselves, including California and New York. It’s certainly possible that Texas will follow along that path – I’m old enough to remember the massive tobacco lawsuit settlement that Texas and then-AG Dan Morales got in the 90s – but that remains to be seen. If that does happen, the state can file its lawsuit here.

The only news story I found relating to this when I looked was from Click2Houston, which mostly recaps the press release. I’ll be keeping an eye on this.

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9 Comments

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    Harris County needs to follow New York’s lead and give illegals cash payments of $ 15,600. If they win any money from Juul, the money should be going exclusively to people in Harris County illegally.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/08/nyregion/covid-relief-undocumented-workers-nyc.html

    “$2.1 Billion for Undocumented Workers Signals New York’s Progressive Shift

    The fund, which could provide payments to hundreds of thousands of people excluded from other pandemic relief, ignited a battle among state lawmakers before it was approved this week.”

  2. C.L. says:

    WhatAboutIsm.

    Bill, I’ll give you props for the attempts to continue advancing your agenda.

  3. Bill Daniels says:

    C.l.:

    I’m actually just highlighting your agenda, and I can’t figure out why it makes you uncomfortable. This is what you support! Show some pride, C.L. Beyond that, Texas has a history of claiming to earmark cash windfalls, so I am just making a suggestion here.

    Remember the way the government monopoly lotto was sold to Texans? It’s for the chil’rens! It’s gonna pay for schools! I can’t remember now what the tobacco lawsuit money was purportedly going to be used for, but I’m sure it was something. And look at the various previous attempts to get casino gambling here…remember when Galveston was going to pay for hurricane repairs by taxing casinos?

    If you have a better idea for how to spend a Juul lawsuit windfall, I’m all ears. What would C.L. spend the money on?

  4. Manny says:

    I am still wondering why we throw billions at farmers and have done so for years, if they can’t make let them quit and move on.

  5. C.L. says:

    I’d spend it on hookers and blow.

    Doesn’t matter what I’d like any Juul settlement $s to be spent on – the Republicans in Austin are going to spend it on whatever they want, just like they did with the Lottery revenue.

  6. Bill Daniels says:

    “I’d spend it on hookers and blow.”

    Wow. First, that’s incredibly sexist, bigoted, and demeaning to women, to reduce their worth to sex objects, and that’s before we talk about combining that patriarchal view with illegal drug use. Next, surely you are aware that many women and girls involved in prostitution have been trafficked. These women and girls are stripped of their very humanity, for the fleeting pleasure of willing buyers like you. Have you thought about that, C.L.? Have you thought of the long term deleterious impact to women, from being degraded and used for the sexual pleasure of men? Given any thought to the fact that substance abuse keeps many sex workers trapped in a vicious cycle, where they can’t escape their circumstances?

    Your comment is all the more galling, considering the fact that you are a White man, and many sex workers in Houston are BBMT’s and Asians. Your comment shows how normalized your White supremacist patriarchal world view actually is to you. It’s cavalier misogyny and racism.

  7. C.L. says:

    Am I a white male ?

  8. Manny says:

    Bill, do the Russians pay you by the post or by the word?

  9. Bill Daniels says:

    C.L.:

    Let’s just say that the DNC does NOT want to hire you.

    https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/358325-dnc-under-fire-over-job-ad

    “A Democratic National Committee (DNC) staffer is under fire for voicing a hiring preference for nonwhite, male candidates in an email about job openings.

    “I personally would prefer that you not forward to cisgender straight white males, since they’re already in the majority,” Data Services manager Madeleine Leader said in an email that urged colleagues to forward open job positions to interested parties, The Daily Wire reported Wednesday.”