$23.8 Million Settlement Reached Between the City of Chicago and E-Cigarette Maker Juul Labs

By John Armour, The Chicago Times

March 13, 2023

CHICAGO – Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office announced Friday that the City has reached a $23.8 million settlement with e-cigarette maker JUUL Labs over claims that the company was engaged in harmful and deceptive business practices by marketing and selling vaping products to juveniles.

“E-cigarette businesses cannot be allowed to come in our city and boost their profits at the expense of minors. The use of any tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, among youth is a serious public health concern — to CDPH and parents across Chicago. We’ve made remarkable progress over the last twenty years in reducing smoking, and now with these resources we’re ready to continue the fight against vaping.” Dr. Allison Arwady, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health said in a statement.

In 2015, JUUL Labs introduced their e-cigarettes into the US market and quickly grew into a major supplier of e-cigarettes in the United States.  It was later revealed that by 2022, over 2.5 million middle and high school students nationwide used e-cigarettes.  According to critics, the harms of vaping for youth and young adults include addiction to nicotine, inhalation of toxic chemicals, exposure to illicit drugs, an increased risk of asthma attacks, and mental health concerns like depression and anxiety. 

“’We congratulate the City of Chicago in protecting our city’s youth against the dangers of vaping.  The most recent data show that in the past 5 years, vaping among Chicago’s school-aged children increased by 56%. This settlement will go a long way in the Chicago Department of Public Health’s fight against chronic disease.” said Joel Africk, President and CEO of Respiratory Health Association.

The CDPH plans to use the funds from the settlement funds to take steps to prevent and reduce youth vaping through education, local policies, parent and teacher supports, cessation supports, improvements in data, and community engagement.

According to the settlement brought by the City in May 2020 it was alleged that JUUL violated City ordinances by engaging in a widespread marketing campaign that targeted juveniles and by selling JUUL products without implementing strict age verification requirements.  JUUL appealed to juveniles with colorful, playful media, and social media marketing to push products made with high nicotine contents to fuel addiction. 

The City has also pursued legal action against multiple sellers of e-cigarettes and e-juices for their unfair marketing tactics aimed at luring Chicago juveniles into a life of addiction.  Nine lawsuits have been filed by the City since 2018 against 45 online vaping retailers across the city.  The City said that settlements have been reached with 50 of these companies in exchange for agreements to change their business practices and pay almost $27 million in fines.  

According to the settlement, JUUL will pay the City $2.8 million within 30 days of the execution of the agreement.  In addition, the City will receive an additional $21 million payment later this year and may potentially receive up to $750,000 additional court-awarded payments.