Johnson County man sues leading e-cigarette maker Juul in federal court

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A suburban Kansas City man who began vaping four years ago as a high-school senior and now suffers respiratory problems has sued a leading e-cigarette maker, alleging that it intentionally targeted minors and concealed the addictiveness of the devices.

Isaac Gant, of Johnson County, Kansas, filed the lawsuit this week in federal court in Kansas City, Kansas. He’s seeking class action status on behalf of all Kansas residents who bought or used products made by Juul. The suit seeks unspecified damages, KCUR reports .

The lawsuit, one of many across the country, comes as health officials investigate hundreds of breathing illnesses nationwide reported in people who used vaping devices. Seven deaths have been reported, including one in Kansas.

Gant, who experiences coughing fits, alleges that Juul adopted the marketing strategies of tobacco companies by glamorizing vaping while downplaying its addictiveness and adverse health effects. It alleges that Juul specially formulated the liquids in its delivery systems to deliver more nicotine in higher concentrations in a way that would make it quicker and easier to consume.

Juul said in a statement that the case is “without merit,” adding that it “never marketed to youth” and doesn’t want non-nicotine users to try its products. The company says its product “has always been intended to be a viable alternative for the one billion current adult smokers in the world.”

But Gant’s lawsuit disputed that claim, saying that individuals who use its products are more than four times as likely to start smoking cigarettes as those who don’t.

“Juul marketed its products to teenagers and did not tell them that it contains nicotine,” said Jerry Schlichter, a St. Louis lawyer who represents Gant. “Now we have many young people who have become addicted to this product when they never were informed about its content at all.”

Schlichter’s law firm has filed several other lawsuits on behalf of young people who have developed health conditions allegedly related to vaping.

“This is a serious problem,” he said.

Here’s Juul’s full statement:

“JUUL Labs is committed to eliminating combustible cigarettes, the number one cause of preventable death in the world. Our product has always only been intended to be a viable alternative for the one billion current adult smokers in the world. We have never marketed to youth and do not want any non-nicotine users to try our products. We have launched an aggressive action plan to combat underage use as it is antithetical to our mission.

This suit largely copies and pastes unfounded allegations previously raised in other lawsuits which we have been actively contesting for over a year. This case is without merit and we will defend our mission throughout this process.

We strongly advocate for Tobacco 21 legislation, we stopped the sale of non-tobacco and non-menthol based flavored JUULpods to ourtraditional retail store partners, enhanced our online age-verification process, strengthened our retailer compliance program with over 2,000 secret shopper visits per month, and shut down our Facebook and Instagram accounts while working constantly to remove inappropriate social media content generated by others on those platforms. Most recently, we announced the deployment of technology at retail stores that automatically restricts the sale of JUUL products until a government-issued ID is electronically scanned to verify age and ID validity. This technology also limits the amount of JUUL products that can be purchased to prevent reselling or sharing to those underage, and it will soon be mandatory for all JUUL product sales across the country.

It was our hope that others in the category would self-impose similar restrictions to address youth usage, and it is now our hope that regulators will impose these same restrictions to protect youth and to preserve the opportunity to eliminate combustible cigarettes, the deadliest legal consumer product known to man.”

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