Beasley Allen lawyers have filed a new lawsuit against JUUL Labs in the vaping giant’s hometown of San Francisco on behalf of three plaintiffs who developed severe nicotine addiction and other physical and mental health issues after using JUUL products. San Francisco officials recently banned the use of vaping devices including JUUL brand products primarily because of the risks and dangers associated with vaping, including those described by the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs are represented by Beasley Allen lawyers Andy Birchfield, who is head of the firm’s Mass Torts Section, and Joseph VanZandt.
“JUUL knew what it was doing and was very intentional in creating a new generation of nicotine addicts all while leading consumers to believe the products were safe,” said VanZandt. “Everything they did, from designing the product, manipulating the nicotine, and marketing, was targeted at addicting young people to nicotine. Before JUUL, the public health community had spent decades working to drastically lower the rate of cigarette usage among minors, but JUUL systematically unraveled decades of progress and sparked a new nicotine addiction epidemic. JUUL must be held accountable.”
Company officials have even acknowledged the true nature of their marketing and product development. For example, Ari Atkins, one of JUUL’s research and development engineers, was quoted by The Verge saying, “We don’t think a lot about addiction here because we’re not trying to design a cessation product at all…anything about health is not on our mind.” JUUL Labs chief Kevin Burns also admitted his company is “partly responsible” for the epidemic of youth vaping in the U.S.
The three plaintiffs, Lindsey Chapman (20), Justin Meir (18) and Jared Pitts (19), all began using JUUL vaping devices and JUULpods while they were in their teens and just shortly after the brand burst onto the market. While modern vaping devices entered the market in the mid-2000s and were promoted to adult smokers to stop smoking traditional cigarettes and tobacco products, JUUL entered the market in 2015 with a different, more aggressive marketing scheme targeting younger generations. Borrowing marketing concepts from big tobacco and hawking their products on more modern mediums such as various social media platforms, JUUL quickly captured 75% of the vape market.
The plaintiffs had not used tobacco products but because they and their teenage peers were inundated with constant images of allegedly safe, sleekly designed JUUL vaping devices that were tastier and easy to access, each of them began using JUUL products or “JUULing.” None of them were aware of the dangers or the excessive amounts of the highly addictive nicotine each JUULpod contained. They all agree that if they had known about the dangers, especially the power of nicotine addiction, they never would have used JUUL.
Chapman “was a healthy, bright and ambitious student” before she began using JUUL products, the lawsuit explains. She never exhibited any signs or indications that she had an addictive personality. Within weeks after using JUUL, Chapman became severely addicted and could not function without her JUUL. She continues struggling to fight the addiction. When she has tried to quit using the product, she experiences mood swings, becomes antsy, irritable and unable to study for class. The large amounts of nicotine included in the JUUL products has caused her to become reliant on nicotine. She feels that her nicotine addiction controls her life.
JUUL not only pushed the bounds of marketing, it also manipulated its products to create and sustain nicotine addiction. Offering fruit-flavored products that would appeal to younger people, increasing the level of nicotine and improving the nicotine delivery systems, it established a new industry standard for other vaping product makers to follow if they wanted to compete with the giant.
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. The lawsuit explains that “[t]his combination of ease of inhalation and high nicotine delivery makes JUUL both powerfully addictive and dangerous.”
In 2016, Meir began using JUUL as a 15-year-old grade school student. His story is similar to Chapman’s. He saw the ads for JUUL vaping devices and products on social media and at vape shops, where he purchased the products, near his home and school. Meir was drawn in by the fruity flavors of JUUL’s vaping pods, such as mango, and by the following year his nicotine addiction was so powerful he couldn’t go even a short period of time without the highly addictive chemical. He was using up to four packs of JUULpods a week. He has tried various forms of nicotine to satisfy his cravings, too. According to the lawsuit, “[s]ince starting JUUL, Justin has experienced numerous health problems” and gets sick frequently on the JUUL, but “when he stops JUULing for any amount of time he immediately gets ill.” Meir said he was never warned that JUUL was addictive, dangerous, could create mood disorders, could interfere with his ability to live his life normally, lower the productivity of his immune system, interfere with his sleeping, or would permanently alter his brain.
Similarly, Pitts relied to his detriment on JUUL’s representations that its products were safe, fun and not harmful. Before using JUUL products, Pitts was healthy, active and a social student. All of that changed after he began using JUUL and within days he developed a powerful addiction that drove him to start smoking cigarettes – something he’d never done before – to help satisfy his strong nicotine cravings. He soon began having breathing problems while working out or playing soccer and discovered he had developed irregular heartbeats. He also now 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. The addiction has forced him to become withdrawn because it has made working and socializing extremely difficult. He struggles daily and feels he cannot escape the temptation.
The lawsuit was filed in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of San Francisco, case number CGC-19-577789. The plaintiffs are also represented by Eric H. Gibbs, Andre M. Mura and Steve Lopez of the Gibbs Law Group, with offices in Los Angeles and Oakland, California.
Negative health consequences also include seizures and nicotine poisoning. Beasley Allen lawyers continue investigating cases involving JUUL brand vaping devices, and also recently filed lawsuits on behalf of three plaintiffs in Alabama.
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