The United States raised the federal minimum age to purchase tobacco and nicotine products from 18 to 21 back in 2019, in part due to the increased use of nicotine and vaping products in young people. Critics of vaping nicotine products have long advocated that the flavored tobacco product flavors were directly marketed towards young people

In different states across the country, flavored nicotine products have been banned for the same reason. Earlier this year, the FDA even moved to ban cigarettes and flavored cigars altogether. The tobacco industry suffered another crushing blow on Monday (June 28) after JUUL lost a settlement to North Carolina that accused them of marketing its product to minors, forcing the company to cough up $40 million.

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The settlement, which was announced by North Carolina attorney general Josh Stein, is the first one reached by the company with a state government. A trial was set to start in July, but the terms of the deal include restrictions on sales of products that appeal to minors and also requires Juul to produce reports yearly confirming their compliance. 

Stein explained in a press conference he began going after Juul after “hearing from friends about the devastation that this product had visited on kids’ lives – addiction, depression, bad grades, switching schools, medical treatment and more”.

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“Juul sparked and spread a disease, the disease of nicotine addiction. They did it to teenagers across North Carolina and this country simply to make money,” Stein said. “Their greed is not only reprehensible, it is unlawful.” The documents obtained by the state during its investigation of the company will be made available to the public in July 2022. The money from the settlement will be used to conduct further research on the harmful effects of youth vaping. 

As part of the settlement, Juul will not be required to admit any wrongdoing. “We look forward to working with attorney general Stein and other manufacturers on the development of potential industrywide marketing practices based on science and evidence,” a Juul spokesperson said. “In addition, we support the attorney general’s desire to deploy funds to generate appropriate science to support North Carolina’s public health interventions to reduce underage use.”

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While they've reached a settlement in this case, the company is still facing more than 2,000 lawsuits over its e-cigarette marketing. There's no word yet on how they plan to handle the others.