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Minnesota’s trial against Juul

Minnesota has started selecting jurors for the lawsuit against JUUL and Altria. After three years since the state initially filed the lawsuit, Minnesota has officially started the lawsuit against JUUL and Altria, electronic cigarette manufacturers and tobacco companies respectively.

The first trial case

Minnesota has included Altria in the defendants and believes that Altria has facilitated JUUL’s “consumer fraud, negligence, and environmental harm.”

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has accused JUUL and Altria of “deceptive marketing targeting teenagers.”

In a press release, Ellison said, “We will prove how JUUL and Altria deceived Minnesota’s young people, causing them to purchase these products and causing significant harm to the public, resulting in enormous economic and health costs to the country.”

Since 2019, more than ten states have filed lawsuits against JUUL, and Minnesota’s lawsuit is the first case to enter the trial stage. Other states, such as Texas, have chosen to settle with JUUL and reached a settlement agreement.

David Schultz, a law professor at the University of Minnesota, said, “The case comes down to three fundamental issues. First, it’s about JUUL’s claims of marketing to minors. Second, it’s about doing nothing to prevent minors from accessing their products. Third, they did not make adequate factual disclosures about the health and safety risks of using e-cigarettes and some smokeless tobacco.”

According to the 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey by the FDA and CDC, approximately 10% or more than 2.5 million middle and high school students in the United States use e-cigarettes. Nearly 85% of them use flavored e-cigarettes. The issue of underage e-cigarette use may become a focus of this case.

A significant initial lawsuit

In 1998, the Minnesota government sued the major tobacco companies, including American Tobacco Company, claiming that they had long deceived the public about smoking hazards and pursued economic benefits at the expense of public health. This was the first time a state government had collectively sued tobacco companies, and Minnesota became the first state to successfully sue and win against the tobacco industry.

Subsequently, a total of 46 state governments and American tobacco companies reached a historic settlement, with tobacco companies agreeing to pay $246 billion in settlement money to compensate for smoking-related medical expenses and agreeing to comply with stricter marketing regulations in the future.

“We know that tobacco product use among (minors) declined for a while, but when JUUL came out, the usage rate among minors skyrocketed,” Schultz said.

JUUL and Altria have denied these charges. In court documents in November 2022, they stated, “Over the past decade, Minnesota has received billions of dollars from tobacco settlements and taxes to prevent tobacco use and remedy its harms. However, the state has repeatedly chosen to ignore recommended tobacco prevention funding guidelines, instead using these funds to support unrelated projects.”

Schultz believes that this case not only affects JUUL but also has an impact on tobacco, marijuana legalization, and a series of other issues.

On March 27th, Hennepin County District Court began selecting jurors, and the trial is expected to end on April 14th.

Matthew Ma