Attorneys for the Beasley Allen Law Firm have filed four separate lawsuits on behalf of individuals severely addicted to nicotine as a result of using vaping devices manufacturers have marketed as safe. Defendants include JUUL Labs, Altria Group and Phillip Morris USA. Legal filings include state and federal courts in Alabama and the state district court in San Francisco, JUUL Labs’ hometown and where officials recently banned the use of vaping devices.
“JUUL borrowed from ‘Big Tobacco’s’ marketing tricks and has profited by creating a new generation of nicotine addicts,” says Beasley Allen attorney Joseph VanZandt. “Just when our nation made progress to stop teen smoking, JUUL burst on the scene, unleashing a brand-new epidemic.”
Claims by plaintiffs in the lawsuits – that JUUL addiction has seriously disrupted and damaged their physical and mental health – mirrors testimony this week before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy.
Lawmakers are hearing from physicians, parents and experts who have studied JUUL marketing. They’ve testified that the company focused its deceptive advertising on social media where it went “viral” among targeted school-age children. Witnesses described lung injuries, psychological dependence, irritability, anxiety and an “overnight” deterioration of physical and psychological well-being among JUUL users. After reviewing about 55,000 non-public documents produced by JUUL, the Subcommittee found that the vaping giant:
- deployed a sophisticated program to enter schools and convey its message directly to teenage children;
- targeted teenagers and children as young as 8 years old in summer camps and public out-of-school programs;
- recruited thousands of online “influencers” to market to teens;
- recruited schools to permit direct marketing to kids.
In court, Beasley Allen is representing the following victims:
- Lindsey Chapman “was a healthy, bright and ambitious student” before using JUUL. Within weeks she became addicted and could not function without it. She continues struggling to fight the addiction.
- Hallie Helms began using JUUL when she was 17 years old, unaware of its high nicotine content. She has developed an extreme nicotine addiction and she suffers from extreme headaches.
- In 2016, Justin Meir began using JUUL as a 15-year-old grade school student. Meir was attracted by the kid-friendly flavors such as mango. The following year, his nicotine addiction was overpowering. Meir said he was never warned that JUUL was addictive, dangerous, could create mood disorders, could interfere with his ability to live a normal life.
- Jared Pitts relied on JUUL’s representations that its products were safe, fun and not harmful. Now, he suffers from panic attacks, migraines, has developed anxiety and depression and becomes irritable, all of which are intensified when he does not have his JUUL. He struggles daily.
- In Fall 2017, Brian Bentley’s son began “JUULing” at the age of 16. He became extremely addicted and developed deceptive behavioral issues he had never experienced. His son also developed more aggressive behavior that led to fights at school. His son continues to struggle with his nicotine addiction.
- Savannah West began “JUULing” in 2016 when she was 17. West had never smoked a cigarette but after becoming addicted to nicotine from using JUUL brand vaping devices, she then started smoking cigarettes to help fight nicotine withdrawals. She was hospitalized when her withdrawal symptoms led to suicidal thoughts.
JUUL claims that each JUUL pod contains as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, but experts believe the amount of nicotine intake for JUUL may be much higher. JUUL designed its vaping device to deliver substantially higher concentrations of nicotine per puff than traditional cigarettes and most other brands’ vaping devices. Its products are also designed to have maximum inhalability, without any “throat hit” or irritation that would serve as a natural deterrent to new users.
“We plan to take on JUUL and it’s tobacco company partners for as long as it takes and, if necessary, in courts across the country,” says Van Zandt. “We won’t stop until they cease their deception and make right all of the wrongs they have committed along the way.”