Two students – at the University of Alabama and Auburn University – have filed a class-action lawsuit against the makers of e-cigarettes, saying the products “prey on youth to recruit replacement smokers for financial gain.”
The suit, filed May 22 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama West Division, lists Juul Labs Inc., Altria Group and Philip Morris USA as defendants.
Elizabeth Ann Swearingen, 19, a Montgomery resident who attends Alabama, became addicted to Juul at 18, the suit claims, while Auburn student John Thomas Via Peavy, 19, became addicted at 17.
“Once an accomplished high school cross-country athlete, Swearingen now has trouble breathing during the simplest of tasks,” the suit states. “Peavy has experienced severe breathing problems after using Juul, including but not limited to severe chest-congestion and decreased appetite.”
Both were partial to the mango flavor, and both unintentionally swallowed the e-liquid containing nicotine, the suit claims.
The Altria Group recently acquired a 35 percent stake in Juul, which is the country’s leading e-cigarette seller. Altria also owns Philip Morris, which sells Marlboro.
The suit seeks actual, compensatory, and consequential damages, saying that the companies concealed the dangers of its e-cigarettes, specifically to minors, and specifically marketed toward them.
The 38-page lawsuit is one of several similar suits filed around the country dealing with e-cigarettes, their advertising and usage. Juul e-cigarettes use cartridges called pods containing nicotine and oil that, when heated, creates a vapor emitting a reduced aerosol. Critics say Juuls deliver a larger dose of nicotine than conventional cigarettes.
“Studies show that there is a ‘decrease in the perceived harshness of the aerosol to the user and thus a greater abuse liability,'” the suit contends. “A Juul pod can be consumed very fast, meaning users are exposed to the amount of nicotine contained in a pack of cigarettes (or more) in a much shorter timeframe.”