ST. LOUIS – A spokesman for one of the most-popular electronic cigarette companies says critics are off the mark when they claim the companies market their products to young people.
That’s after a school district in St. Charles County became one of the first in the nation to sue vaping industry leaders, saying the companies violated federal law and created a public health hazard with their products and marketing efforts. The lawsuit was filed Oct. 7 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.
Ted Kwong, a spokesman for the company that makes JUUL vaping products, issued a statement saying the Francis Howell School District and others suing the company are wrong in the conclusions made in the lawsuits.
"We never designed our marketing to appeal to youth and do not want any non-nicotine users to try our products as they exist to help adult smokers find an alternative to combustible cigarettes,” Kwong wrote.
The Francis Howell School District noted in its suit that tobacco-related offenses in school buildings rose exponentially after JUUL products became widespread in the market.
The issues surrounding vaping and vaping products are gaining notice around the state. Nationwide, more than 1,000 reports of injuries and 18 deaths caused by suspected vaping-related illnesses have reported by the Centers for Disease Control. One of those deaths, a man in his 40s, occurred in Missouri.
Kwong said the efforts being made by Gov. Mike Parson are more likely to result in positive change than lawsuits. The governor recently charged several state agencies with creating a plan to discourage vaping amongst youth and to educate young people about the dangers of using the products.
“We need to urgently address underage use of vapor products and earn the trust of regulators, policymakers and other stakeholders,” Kwong wrote. “That is why we are focusing on taking aggressive actions to reduce youth usage of our products, working through the (Food and Drug Administration)'s PMTA (premarket tobacco product application) process and supporting and complying with FDA’s final guidance on flavored products once effective.”