Carmel family sues e-cigarette company for fueling teen’s addiction to nicotine

CARMEL – A Carmel family says an e-cigarette company misled their teenage son and fueled his nicotine addiction.

Now they are taking legal action.

The family says the teen got addicted to Juul e-cigarettes back in 2015 as a high school freshman. They say the nicotine in the e-cigarettes has “altered his brain physically and chemically and put him at risk for a lifetime of lifelong health problems.”

The lawsuit also says the teen has become withdrawn, anxious and highly irritable.

Juul says the lawsuit is without merit and the company plans to defend itself.

"This suit largely copies and pastes unfounded allegations previously raised in other lawsuits which we have been actively contesting for over a year. Like the prior cases that this one copies, it is without merit and we will defend our mission throughout this process," a spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

In February, the CDC released a report that found nearly 21 percent of high school students vaped in 2018. The legal age to purchase tobacco and e-cigarette liquids is 18.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams warned that parents, teachers, health officials and government officials “must take aggressive steps to keep children from using e-cigs.”

In its statement, Juul says its e-cigarettes are meant for adult smokers and not minors:

“We strongly advocate for Tobacco 21 legislation, we stopped the sale of non-tobacco and non-menthol based flavored JUULpods to our traditional 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.”

The Carmel family says the packaging, pods and advertising do not warn people about the dangers of nicotine. They’re seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

Danielle Patterson is the State Government Relations Director for the American Heart Association. She does not have any connection to this case, however, she says, this teen and his family are not alone.

“Too many of our young people are becoming addicted to these products and they don’t really know the dangers of using these e-cigarettes,” said Patterson, “We’ve seen several cases of kids being hospitalized for the use of these products. It’s just time, we can no longer wait until we go through all of the steps. We just need to stop the use of these products at this point.”

The American Heart Association has pushed the FDA to regulate and stop e-cigarette or vaping products. The organization wants to see effective tobacco control policies.

“We want strong smoke free air laws, we want adequate funding for tobacco cessation, we support increases in the tobacco tax, and we want regulation for e-cigarettes, Patterson added, “Our youth are at risk.”

If you would like to learn more about the American Heart Association’s efforts, click here.

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