DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – On Monday morning, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein reached an agreement with the e-cigarette company JUUL that will require the company to pay $40 million and make drastic changes to the way it does business.
While Stein said it is a victory for North Carolina, he said it is only one step toward getting a handle on the e-cigarette epidemic among teenagers. He said more action is needed by the FDA to help keep e-cigarettes out of the hands of teens.
Stein filed a lawsuit against the company in Durham County in 2019 that accused JUUL of using ads that appealed to minors. The lawsuit also accused the company of encouraging teens to start vaping with their sleek devices and sweet flavors.
“Approximately one out of every five high schoolers in our state have used an e-cigarette in the past 30 days,” Stein said.
In a hearing at the Durham County Courthouse on Monday morning that lasted less than half an hour, Stein and the company reached an agreement that would require the company to pay the state of North Carolina $40 million over the next six years.
This money will fund programs to help people quit e-cigarettes, prevent e-cigarette addiction, and research e-cigarettes.
The settlement also requires JUUL to change its business practices.
For instance, JUUL can no longer sell new flavors of e-cigarettes in North Carolina without FDA authorization.
The settlement also requires JUUL to cut down on social media advertising and their ads can no longer appeal to minors.
JUUL must also make changes to how they sell their products and use age verification systems to sell only to adults.
“Today’s court order will go a long way towards ensuring that their e-cigarette product is not in kids’ hands, its chemical vapor is out of their lungs, and that the nicotine does not poison or addict their brains,” Stein said.
But is this settlement enough to fix the e-cigarette epidemic among teens in North Carolina?
Stein said that this agreement only limits what one e-cigarette company can do. He also said more action is needed by the Federal Drug Administration to help keep e-cigarettes out of the hands of teenagers.
“JUUL is the dominant e-cigarette company in this country, but I want to be clear, they are not the only one,” Stein said. “I believe that if we’re going to successfully conquer this crisis, it requires action by the FDA. They have the authority to limit the amount of nicotine, to eliminate certain flavors and to apply that across the entire industry, and not to just one manufacturer.”
Stein said that he has written the Federal Drug Administration and asked them to make these changes.
The company JUUL said in a statement after the hearing that this settlement is consistent with its ongoing effort to reset its company.
A JUUL spokesperson said that it will continue to prevent teen usage and advance the opportunity for harm reduction for adult smokers.
CBS 17 asked the company how this agreement will hurt its profits moving forward, but it had no comment.