PA AG Shapiro files lawsuit against Juul Labs

Kellen Stepler | Features Editor


Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced on Feb. 10, 2020 that his office is filing a lawsuit against Juul Labs for violating Pennsylvania’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection law and jeopardizing the health of Pennsylvanians, especially youth.

The lawsuit calls for Juul to cease sales in Pennsylvania of their products.

“Juul knowingly targeted young people with tactics similar to the tobacco companies’ playbook,” Shapiro said in a press release. “They disregarded their growing audience of young users, taking no action, as their profit margins skyrocketed on the backs of American kids.”

If the court does not grant a full ban, the state wants to ban all of Juul’s flavored, menthol and high-nicotine vaping products, except those that are tobacco flavored.

“There is no proof these e-cigarettes are safe and until there is, we need to get Juul products off shelves and out of the hands of young people,” Shapiro said in a statement.

Pennsylvania joins a list of other states, including New York, Minnesota and California, that have filed similar suits against Juul.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s 2019 Monitoring the Future Survey, a third of high school seniors reported that they have vaped within the last 30 days. The annual report surveys 42,500 students in grades 8, 10 and 12 at 400 public and private schools across the country. A Pennsylvania Youth Survey found that one in four high schoolers in Pennsylvania has vaped in the last month.

Lung illness caused by vaping increased sharply over the summer, but has been in decline over the past months. As of Feb. 4, the CDC reported a total of 2,758 hospitalized e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury (EVALI) cases or deaths have been reported from all 50 states, Washington D.C., and two U.S. territories. As of Feb. 4, 64 deaths have been confirmed in 28 states and Washington D.C.

“Given these facts and the devastating consequences, including death, that e-cigarettes have contributed to – we among many healthcare providers support AG Shapiro’s decision in the best interest of those who have endured negative health outcomes from using them,” said Dessa Mrvos, registered nurse and health services director at Duquesne.

Mrvos also noted numerous dangers related to vaping and juuling. She said that most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, the addictive drug in regular cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products. She also cited a recent CDC study finding that 99% of the e-cigarettes sold in assessed venues in the U.S. contained nicotine, despite some e-cigarette labels do not disclose that they contain nicotine, and some e-cigarettes marketed as containing 0% nicotine have been found to contain nicotine.

“Nicotine can harm the developing adolescent and young adult brain. The brain keeps developing until about age 25,” Mrvos said. “Using nicotine in adolescence can harm the parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood and impulse control.”

Mrvos said that the staff of Health Services “fully acknowledges” the public health concern of vaping and EVALI.

“We have implemented education outreach to known users when presenting as patients our office and through screening strategies in place since the fall semester, when this became a prevalent health concern,” Mrvos said. “A mass email was issued when Allegheny County advised local post-secondary schools to communicate to student populations the direct risk to college students.”

Mrvos implores students to recognize their responsibility to their health and well being as “smart, autonomous young adults.”

“Avoiding obvious and known sources of risk and danger is a ‘no-brainer,’” Mrvos said.

Mrvos also compared Duquesne students to other college students locally and nationally.

“I have close affiliation with health services colleagues from many other surrounding and national colleges and universities. By comparison, I think that the students of Duquesne University are exceptional in their commitment to wellbeing, and we encourage each of you to continue to live by and uphold good health practices for your bodies, minds and souls,” Mrvos said.