Attorney General James Allocates $16.4 Million of JUUL Settlement to Long Island for Vaping Education and Prevention

(Photo courtesy Office of Attorney General Letitia James)

Attorney General Letitia James announced that after suing the e-cigarette company JUUL for its role in creating a youth vaping epidemic and for its deceptive and misleading marketing tactics, a settlement has been reached.

In 2019, they secured a $462 million state settlement with JUUL, with $112 million going to the state of New York. With these funds, James announced at a press conference on Wednesday that Long Island will receive $16.4 million, with Suffolk County receiving $8.8 million to fund education, prevention, research, and enforcement programs to help young people quit vaping.

James was joined by Samantha Prince and Erin Kennedy, two East Hampton High School graduates who co-founded Breathe in Change, a student initiative started to combat the nicotine addictions they saw at their school.

In addition, Senator Monica Martinez, Senator Assembly Member Kimberly Jean Pierre, Deputy County Executive for Health and Human Services Dr. Silvia Diaz, Suffolk County Legislator and Minority Leader Jason Richberg, Southampton High School principal Brian Zone, and Executive Director of the Long Island Council of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Steve Chassman spoke about their work to combat the JUUL epidemic.

Breathe in Change brought the youth vaping crisis to James’ attention after Prince testified before Congress on its dangerous impacts. After securing the settlement, James explained how the funds would be distributed to every New York county, including BOCES, and highlighted the stringent restrictions included in the settlement.

“JUUL cannot directly or indirectly target youth in its marketing,” James said. “JUUL cannot and will not operate youth education and prevention programs. JUUL will not promote anyone or portray anyone under the age of 35 in their promotional materials.” 

James revealed the harmful and deceitful marketing ploys of JUUL that have played a large part in getting young people introduced to and addicted to nicotine.. 

“JUUL deliberately hid the health risks of its products behind clouds of smoke to basically pad its profits,” James said. “JUUL intentionally targeted children, and they falsely led consumers to believe that its baits were safer than cigarettes and contained less nicotine, when in fact, one pod of JUUL contains as much nicotine as a whole pack of cigarettes.”

After e-cigarette use amongst middle school and high school students more than doubled following JUUL’s introduction in 2015, Breathe in Change began their student group in 2019 to provide therapeutic alternatives, such as support groups and student-led presentations to combat the crisis. With the funding, James announced that their work will expand, appointing Prince and Kennedy as the first ambassadors to teach young people about the dangers of vaping.

“I cannot thank you enough, Attorney General James, for helping our schools become better equipped to fight the attack of these even more dangerous vaping devices on our students,” Prince said. “I am confident that you and your office will continue to do everything in your power to hold their deceitful companies accountable and to protect the lungs and minds of my classmates and friends.”

They noticed that most schools’ tactics were not helpful in combatting the issue. Instead, it was aiding in the addiction of students. 

“Students who were caught with nicotine vapes were and still are in many schools suspended even long term,” Southampton High School principal Brian Zone said. “This disciplinary response only furthered students’ addiction by keeping them home, often unsupervised, where vaping continued, grades dropped and student dropout rates increased. Today, I and many of my colleagues have learned that intervention, preventionand therapeutic measures are much more effective in addressing student addiction and mental health issues than punitive actions.”

In addition to preventative measures, there will be a focus on testing the pods for substances like marijuana, fentanyl, xylazine, and other chemicals that can potentially be found in JUUL pods. Some of the funding will also go towards enforcement, which will close down a significant number of illegal smoke shops on Long Island and throughout the state of New York.

Along with the JUUL settlement, Attorney General James announced another significant victory: the successful passage of legislation designed to protect children from addictive social media algorithms. This new law bans algorithms engineered to keep children engaged for extended periods, often late into the night.

“We will continue to do everything in our power, and I will use every enforcement tool that I have at my disposal again to protect our children all throughout the great state of New York,” James said.