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Minnesota’s teens at heart of Juul lawsuit

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ST. PAUL Minn. (KTTC) -- It was a big day at the Minnesota State Capitol as lawmakers, health care officials and high school students came together to take on a big player in the vaping industry in court.

The lawsuit aims to hold a San Francisco based company, JUUL accountable for harming the young people of Minnesota.

The "Land of 10,000 lakes" is joining North Carolina, California and New York in taking on the e-cigarette manufacturer.

"My job as Attorney General is to protect Minnesotans especially the most vulnerable like our young people," said Attorney General Keith Ellison. "We're using the power of the Minnesota attorney generals office to bring a lawsuit against JUUL Labs on behalf of the state and the people of Minnesota."

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison.

Hopkins High School students say they fell victim to Juul's manufacturing techniques. Those techniques are what state leaders and health care officials say were unlawful and fraudulent.

"What they didn't tell me is that the nicotine content was marginally higher," a student said. "It's better than other drugs, it's better than other drugs and I was always told that it's an easier alternative and something easy to just give you a buzz and a chill," another student added.

Two Hopkins High School students sharing the negative impacts vaping caused them.

Students said it was all fun and games until the teens realized what was going on. "It feels like I've been deceived," said a student.

Children's Minnesota pediatric pulmonologist Dr. Anne Griffiths said the only way some teens are able to stop is when they're in the hospital. "They're smart kids they're frightened, they know they're addicted," Griffiths said.

Children's Minnesota Hospital Pediatric Pulmonologist Dr. Anne Griffiths.

Minnesota is now stepping up for young people and asking the court to award monetary relief for what it calls, "great harm caused," and that's not all.

"Our lawsuit asks the court to find that Juul's responsible for creating a public nuisance and for violating several state consumer laws," Ellison said.

The fight is not only headed to courtroom, but to the legislative session. "We're not gonna wait to take action on this, I think you can expect we will be working with our partners in the legislature, banning flavors for example," Minnesota Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan.

Minnesota Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan.

A Juul spokesperson sent a statement reacting to latest lawsuit:

“While we have not yet reviewed the complaint, we remain focused on resetting the vapor category in the U.S. and earning the trust of society by working cooperatively with attorneys general, regulators, public health officials, and other stakeholders to combat underage use and convert adult smokers from combustible cigarettes. As part of that process, we recently stopped accepting orders for our Mint JUULpods in the U.S., suspended all broadcast, print, and digital product advertising in the U.S. and are investing in scientific research to ensure the quality of our FDA Premarket Tobacco Product Application (PMTA) application and expanding our commitment to develop new technology to reduce youth use. Our customer base is the world’s 1 billion adult smokers and we do not intend to attract underage users."  

Ellison said "the responsibility is on their (Juul's) shoulders and we're gonna prove it. "

Ubah Ali

Ubah Ali

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