Denver on Wednesday filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against electronic cigarette companies on grounds that they wrongfully marketed to young people.
The 207-page lawsuit comes at a time when Colorado has the highest youth vaping rate in the country.
“As we battle COVID-19, pulmonary health has never been more important,” Denver City Attorney Kristin Bronson said in a statement. “Sadly, scientific studies indicate the disease could pose a greater risk to young people who have been using the defendants’ harmful products. We are more focused than ever on fulsome abatement strategies combating the youth vaping epidemic.
“The defendants helped cause it, so they can help us pay for it,” she said.
Denver’s lawsuit, which is led by Keller Rohrback, will be consolidated with another piece of pending litigation against the San Francisco-based defendants.
The city argues that e-cig giants, such as JUUL, Altria, Eonsmoke and Nu Mark, violated its public nuisance law by marketing to youth, which has led to a national epidemic.
The lawsuit requests that the court require the defendants to pay an unspecified amount in damages, as well as cough up money for prevention education and addiction treatment.
In 2017, 40% of high school students had tried e-cigarettes, marking a spike of 29 percentage points since 2013, according to a news release from the Denver City Attorney’s Office.
“Denver has spent significant time and resources combatting this increase by performing sting operations, by limiting access to vape and tobacco products with the Tobacco 21 Law passed in 2019, and by seeking to develop addiction treatment options for youth,” the city attorney’s office said.
JUUL, which is the target of an ongoing investigation led by Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, released a statement that said it has suspended television, print and digital advertising and pulled its flavored productions from the shelves in response to concerns raised by lawmakers and public health officials.
“We will continue to reset the vapor category in the U.S. and seek to earn the trust of society by working co-operatively with attorneys general, regulators, public health officials, and other stakeholders to combat underage use and transition adult smokers from combustible cigarettes,” the statement said.