Minnesota settled its lawsuit against e-cigarette company Juul and its largest former investor, Altria, over allegations the companies intentionally marketed to young people.
Attorney General Keith Ellison (D) said the terms of the settlement will be kept confidential until formal papers are publicly filed with the court, which is anticipated to happen in the next 30 days.
Juul has been sued by numerous states in recent years, but Minnesota’s 2019 lawsuit was the first to go to trial. The settlement announcement comes just before closing arguments were due to begin.
In total, Juul has now reached agreements with 48 states and territories. The company last week announced a $462 million settlement with New York, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Massachusetts and New Mexico.
“After three weeks of trial highlighting and bringing into the public record the actions that Juul and Altria took that contributed to the youth vaping epidemic, we reached a settlement in the best interest of Minnesotans,” Ellison said in a statement.
“One of my goals in bringing this case was to send a message: we will not tolerate youth marketing of nicotine products in Minnesota. My office will continue to do its part to protect kids from getting hooked on these harmful products,” Elison said.
The state was seeking more than $100 million in damages from Juul and co-defendant Altria in the suit.
Altria was added as a defendant in 2020 after it purchased a nearly $13 billion minority stake in the company.
Altria in March ended its ownership stake in Juul after the value dropped to $250 million at the end of last year.
“While we appreciate the court and jury’s time, attention, and professionalism throughout the trial, we are pleased to have reached a settlement with the state and will work to finalize this agreement over the coming weeks,” a spokesman for Juul Labs said in a statement.
“As we reach total resolution of the company’s past, we are focused on our path forward to maximize the value and impact of our product technology and scientific foundation,” the company said.
Juul was once the most popular e-cigarette, and a few years after it first hit the market in 2015 it became a status symbol for teenagers. Until regulators started cracking down, Juul was essentially free to do what it wanted in terms of the flavors it sold and the marketing tactics it used.
But now Juul no longer sells fruit-flavored cartridges, and sales have fallen sharply. The Food and Drug Administration last summer ordered Juul’s e-cigarettes off the U.S. market, but later put the ban on hold while the company appealed.