Vaping Harmed Teens; Now Juul Must Pay $40 Million to Settle a Lawsuit

Juul lawsuit

There’s been some compelling evidence that suggests vaping e-cigarettes often sets the stage for cannabis use, especially among young people. And in recent news, major e-cigarette manufacturer Juul recently lost a lawsuit for its role in sinisterly marketing Juul e-cigarettes to adolescents and teens.

Unfortunately, the arguably even more sinister danger, the connection between e-cigarette use among young people and an upsurge in marijuana use, was not reported.

Juul Corporation Now Being Held Accountable

A breaking news story hit the airwaves on June 28th, 2021 with the headline, “Juul to Pay $40 Million in N.C. Case Over Vaping’s Harm to Teens.” The lawsuit alleged that Juul intentionally got scores of teenagers hooked on nicotine. According to North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, “For years Juul targeted young people, including teens, with highly addictive e-cigarettes. It lit the spark and fanned the flames of a vaping epidemic among our children—one that you can see in any high school in North Carolina.”

Juul sign

Juul was found guilty in this case for many reasons. For one, the company intentionally marketed its products to adolescents, teens, and young adults, even though Juul e-cigarettes were originally intended as a “safer” alternative for adults who were hooked on tobacco cigarettes. But rather than helping adult tobacco smokers get off cigarettes, Juul began intentionally getting young people hooked on Juul e-cigarette pods, nicotine-rich devices that are harmful to youths.

Young people must be protected from unhealthy and addictive products. From Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, “The settlement of North Carolina’s lawsuit against Juul announced today underscores Juul’s culpability in causing the epidemic of youth e-cigarette use and addiction in the United States and the responsibility of the FDA to deny Juul’s application to continue selling products that put our kids at risk. This settlement highlights the role that Juul’s flavored products, including menthol-flavored products, and its high-nicotine products played in creating and now sustaining the youth e-cigarette epidemic.”

The Connection Between Vaping Juul and Marijuana

While the lawsuit discussed above is a step in the right direction, it failed to bring up the sinister connection between young people who are convinced to use electronic cigarettes and those same young people who then go on to smoke marijuana.

There have been efforts to determine if there is indeed a connection between youth vaping and marijuana use. One group of researchers published a 2019 paper in JAMA Pediatrics suggesting such a connection. Citing their research, “Use of electronic cigarettes (often called e-cigarettes) has increased considerably among young people in the past 5 years. Use of e-cigarettes has been associated with higher rates of marijuana use, which is associated with several adverse health outcomes in youth. This meta-analysis found a significant increase in the odds of past or current and subsequent marijuana use in adolescents and young adults who used e-cigarettes.”

“The percentage of college students who said they vaped marijuana in the past 30 days rose from 5.2% in 2017 to 14% in 2019. The corresponding percentages for their non-college-attending peers increased from 7.8% in 2017 to 17% in 2019.”

The JAMA Pediatrics study cited above is not the only one to reveal a stark connection between vaping and marijuana use among young people. The National Institutes of Health (the NIH) also reported on this. In their September 2020 press release on the subject, they revealed that “Vaping marijuana and vaping nicotine rose sharply in the past three years among college-age (19-22 years old) adults. The percentage of college students who said they vaped marijuana in the past 30 days rose from 5.2% in 2017 to 14% in 2019. The corresponding percentages for their non-college-attending peers increased from 7.8% in 2017 to 17% in 2019.” As vaping has become more normalized among young people, the percentage of young people who vape and use marijuana has also increased.


The trend has become so prevalent that health officials are issuing warnings to the broad public. Quoting Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “We are seeing an increasingly concerning trend. Many young people may view vaping and cannabis use as ’safer,’ but the reality is that nicotine is highly addictive, and cannabis can also be addictive, particularly in younger adults for whom the brain is still developing.” If the trend continues, more young people will continue to interchange vaping nicotine with vaping marijuana.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse, a branch of the NIH, released its own documentation on the connection between young people vaping Juul and other electronic cigarettes and the use of cannabis products among that same demographic. According to their research, “Teens who vape are a lot more likely to use marijuana than teens who don’t vape. Overall, young people who used vaping devices (also called e-cigarettes) were 3.5 times more likely to use marijuana: Young adults (ages 18 to 24) who vaped were 2.3 times more likely to use marijuana. People ages 12 to 17 who vaped were 4.3 times more likely to use marijuana.” The distinction seems more than clear. When young people vape electronic cigarette devices, they are much more likely to use marijuana than their peers who do not experiment with such devices.

Big Corporations are Being Held Accountable; Now, Treat Those Who Became Addicted

Juul’s lawsuit loss comes on the heels of a barrage of lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies for the role they played in creating the opioid epidemic. Are we finally seeing the end of corporate America’s ability to make addictive and dangerous substances and act above the law while doing so? Perhaps. But this can only be the first step towards addressing America’s addiction problem. None of it will matter if those who are now addicted to drugs (teens hooked on marijuana thanks to e-cigarettes and Americans hooked on opiates thanks to pharma companies) actually do get help.

Once thought by many to be above the law, mega corporations are now being made to pay up and accept responsibility for creating addiction epidemics. But those who are addicted are still not getting the help that they need, as evidenced by the ongoing addiction treatment gap.

Parents talks with their son

If you know someone who is addicted, no matter what the substance is, make sure they get help as soon as possible. Drug and alcohol addiction is a serious crisis that claims tens of thousands of lives every year. Please don’t wait until it is too late. Make sure your loved one gets help today.


Reviewed by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, RAS, MCAP, LCDC



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.