The trial against e-cigarette company Juul Labs began on Tuesday, with Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison personally leading the state’s case against the company. Minnesota is seeking more than $100 million in damages, accusing Juul of unlawfully targeting young people to get them addicted to nicotine through the use of attractive flavors, clever ads, and slick products. Ellison called out Juul for undermining the state’s efforts to reduce youth smoking rates to their lowest levels in a generation.
While Juul has faced thousands of lawsuits nationwide, most have been settled, including 39 with other states and territories. However, Minnesota is one of the few states that have refused to settle, having previously won a landmark $7.1 billion settlement with the tobacco industry in 1998. In 2020, tobacco industry giant Altria, which formerly owned a minority stake in Juul, was added as a co-defendant in the case.
David Bernick, an attorney for Juul, argued that the company’s purpose was always to provide a less dangerous alternative for adult smokers of combustible cigarettes, not to attract kids. He claimed that e-cigarettes are not completely safe but not deadly either, falling somewhere in between. Bernick also suggested that the growth in youth vaping was more likely due to increasing adult demand resulting in “leakage” to kids, rather than Juul intentionally targeting young people.