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DC Attorney General sues Juul for marketing to minors

DC Superior Court filed the lawsuit Tuesday, alleging that the e-cigarette company knowingly marketed to minors and practiced 'illegal and deceptive conduct.'

WASHINGTON — D.C. now joins the likes of California and New York in filing lawsuits against e-cigarette producer Juul.  D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine filed charges Tuesday accusing the company of knowingly marketing to children and understating how much nicotine was incorporated in their products.

"If designing a highly addictive product tailored towards kids were not bad enough, JUUL then relentlessly marketed to underage users,the lawsuit states. "It engaged in a highly coordinated marketing campaign, including the use of launch parties, advertisements using trendy-looking young models, social media posts, and free samples, knowing that it was addicting teenagers and securing a long-term consumer base that would be hard-pressed to kick the habit."

The lawsuit also claims that Juul's age-verification process -- the system Juul used to prevent minors from purchasing the e-cigarettes -- was "insufficient" and has "numerous loopholes."

You have to be 21 years old to buy any cigarettes or e-cigarette products in Maryland, Virginia and D.C. 

According to court documents, Juul's age-verification system allowed users the option to "redo" their application if it got rejected the first time. The age-verification system also allowed underage consumers to put down names of those older than 21 years of age who shared their last name.

"For example, if, while placing an online order, a customer input a date of birth that reflected an age of under 21, JUUL still permitted the sale, so long as any person over the age of 21 was registered with the same public records information," the lawsuit states. "This allowed underage customers who share the same name with an adult in the same household -- for example, with a parent -- to circumvent the age-verification process."

WATCH: 'Juul came into our school' Teen testifies before Congress on dangers of e-cigarettes

According to the lawsuit, a student from Woodrow Wilson High School in D.C. even emailed the company in July 2018 to address their concerns about vaping in the school. The student described herself as a  "teenager surrounded by people harming themselves every day by inhaling heated up chemicals into their lungs," and said that "practically everyone is Juuling."

"Sadly, this illegal and deceptive conduct has led to thousands of District middle and high-school students falling prey to JUUL’s highly addictive product," the lawsuit states. "JUUL knows this: in July 2018, one impacted student at Woodrow Wilson High School emailed JUUL and described how “kids are ‘Juuling’ in the bathroom, in the hallway and stairways, and even in the classroom."

Credit: AP
FILE - In this Dec. 20, 2018, file photo Juul products are displayed at a smoke shop in New York. On Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission ordered Juul and five other vaping companies to hand over information about how they market e-cigarettes, the government’s latest move targeting the industry. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

In September, Juul announced the company would suspend all digital, print and broadcasting advertising in the United States after many addressed concerns about the safety of the e-cigarettes. In the same announcement, Juul also said the company is "refraining from lobbying the Administration on its draft guidance and committing to fully support and comply with the final policy when effective."

Other areas across the DMV have expressed their concerns about vaping and e-cigarettes, including  Montgomery County, which joined the movement of reducing vape sales.

The county filed a class-action lawsuit against Juul in October, claiming the company violated the Maryland Consumer Protection Act and Montgomery County Consumer Protection Act. Montgomery County Councilmembers Gabe Albornoz and Craig Rice introduced legislation that would ban any vape shops within a half-mile of middle schools and high schools in the county,

READ: The full lawsuit from D.C. Superior Court, filed on Nov.26

WATCH: Do e-cigarette cartridges contain more nicotine than cigarettes?

RELATED: Vaping illness outbreak impacts sales for local e-cigarette shops

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