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Juul settles more than 5,000 lawsuits over its vaping products: NPR

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Juul products are displayed in a smoking room in New York on December 20, 2018.

Seth Wenig/AP


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Seth Wenig/AP

Juul settles more than 5,000 lawsuits over its vaping products: NPR

Juul products are displayed in a smoking room in New York on December 20, 2018.

Seth Wenig/AP

Juul Labs has reached settlements covering more than 5,000 cases brought by approximately 10,000 plaintiffs related to its vaping products.

Financial terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but Juul said it secured an equity investment to fund it.

Shaken by lawsuits, Juul announced hundreds of layoffs last month and bankruptcy has looked increasingly likely as it secures funding to continue operations.

The e-cigarette maker has faced thousands of lawsuits from individuals and families of Juul users, school districts and Native American tribes. This week’s settlement resolves those cases, which had been consolidated in federal court in California pending several landmark trials.

“These agreements represent a major step toward strengthening Juul Labs’ operations and securing the path forward for the company,” a company spokeswoman said in a statement.

Juul rose to the top of the US vaping market five years ago thanks to the popularity of flavors like mango, mint and crème brûlée. But the startup’s rise has been fueled by use among teenagers, some of whom have become addicted to Juul’s nicotine-rich pods.

Parents, school administrators and politicians have widely blamed the company for a rise in underage vaping, which now includes dozens of brands of flavored e-cigarettes that are the preferred choice of teens.

Amid the backlash of lawsuits and government sanctions, Juul dropped all US advertising and discontinued most of its flavors in 2019.

In June, the Food and Drug Administration rejected Juul’s request to keep its product on the market as a smoking alternative for adults, throwing its future into uncertainty. The FDA said Juul failed to adequately answer key questions about the potential for chemical leaks from its device. The FDA temporarily suspended its initial decision while Juul files an appeal.

Then, in September, the San Francisco company agreed to pay nearly $440 million to settle a two-year, 33-state investigation into the marketing of its high-nicotine vaping products.

In the same month, the company’s largest investor, tobacco giant Altria, announced plans to take over its own e-cigarette competition.

Altria pulled its own e-cigarettes from the market in 2018 after taking a nearly $13 billion stake in Juul. But that investment lost more than 95% of its value as Juul’s prospects faded, giving Altria the chance to end its non-compete agreement.

That means Juul could soon be forced to battle for retail store shelf space with Marlboro maker Altria, as well as longtime rivals like Reynolds American’s Vuse, which recently overtook Juul to become the leading American vaping brand.

Juul also settled with 37 states and territories over the past year and said it was in ongoing talks with other key stakeholders to resolve remaining disputes.

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