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Minnesota releases details of Juul settlement

The company will pay $60.5 million toward education and addiction prevention efforts and has agreed to seriously curtail its marketing efforts in the state.

ST. PAUL, Minn. (CN) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison released details of a $60.5 million settlement with nicotine vape makers Juul and Altria on Wednesday afternoon, bringing an end to an action that brought the tobacco companies to trial for marketing their products to teenagers. 

Ellison said in a press conference that the settlement, first announced at the tail end of a three-week trial last month, was the largest per-capita settlement any state had reached with Juul and its parent company to date. Minnesota was the only one of those states to take the e-cigarette makers to trial, seeking $100 million in damages for the companies’ allegedly deliberate push to hook teenagers on nicotine. 

“You settle cases so that you can get finality,” Ellison said, adding that more than a third of the settlement could be expected within the next month and more than two-thirds would be paid within the year. 

The money will be distributed under the terms of a bill currently pending in the Minnesota House, which earmarks it for prevention and education efforts. Introduced with “bipartisan language" by Representative Kaohly Her, a Democrat from Minneapolis, the bill is likely a shoo-in for passage by the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party-dominated state government. 

The settlement prohibits Juul from marketing to Minnesotans under the age of 21, including a prohibition on depictions of people under 35 in its promotional materials and a ban on Juul-branded apparel and other promotional swag. It also requires the company to clearly disclose the amount of nicotine in its products on their labels, and imposes bans on billboards and sponsorships that recall the bans on tobacco advertising that came out of a similar 1998 settlement with major tobacco companies. 

That settlement loomed large at Wednesday’s press conference, with Governor Tim Walz and others drawing parallels between Ellison and the attorney general who settled that case, DFL stalwart Hubert H. “Skip” Humphrey. 

“I’m so proud as Minnesota as a governor, but this one feels very personal as the father of a 16-year-old,” Walz said. “This is the hardcore work that the attorney general’s office does on behalf of the state of Minnesota.” 

Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan said that while the state’s 20 years of work on nicotine addiction following the Big Tobacco settlement had been seriously set back by the rise of Juul and other e-cigarettes in the mid-2010s, she had high hopes for the new settlement.

“We were making incredible progress. This felt like a scary setback, and now we are moving forward,” she said. 

The settlement also contains a number of disclosure requirements for Juul and Altria, requiring the companies to create a document depository which would be open to the public for a minimum of 10 years.

“We’re gonna have a lot of sunlight,” Ellison said, “and we encourage researchers and folks like that to look through them.” 

Categories / Business, Consumers, Government, Health, Regional

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