Juul to pay about $439 million to settle e-cigarette marketing probe

Sept 6 (Reuters) - E-cigarette maker Juul Labs Inc has agreed to pay $438.5 million to settle claims by 34 U.S. states and territories that it downplayed its products' risks and targeted underage buyers, several states announced Tuesday.

As part of the settlement, Juul has agreed to refrain from some kinds of marketing, including the use of cartoons, product placement and depictions of users under 35. The deal stems from a two-year investigation led by Connecticut, Texas and Oregon.

Juul, which has not admitted wrongdoing, called the settlement "a significant part of our ongoing commitment to resolve issues from the past," and said that the marketing restrictions were consistent with its practices since it undertook a "company-wide reset" in 2019. The company at that time pulled most flavors from the market and halted much of its advertising under pressure from regulators.

Juul previously settled similar claims by Arizona, North Carolina, Louisiana and Washington. Some states, including New York, California, Massachusetts and Illinois, are continuing to pursue claims against Juul.

Juul e-cigarette starter kit is seen in this picture illustration taken July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Martinne Geller/Illustration/File Photo

Thousands of local governments and individuals have also brought lawsuits against the company, most of which have been consolidated in federal court in San Francisco.

The first trial is set for November, in a case brought by San Francisco's school district. The next trial, scheduled for January, will be in a case brought by the family of a Tennessee teenager who allegedly became addicted to Juul's e-cigarettes.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in June briefly banned the products, though it put the ban on hold and agreed to reconsider after the company appealed. read more

Nonetheless, Marlboro cigarette maker Altria Group Inc (MO.N) in July said its 35% stake in Juul was worth just $450 million, down from $12.8 billion in March 2018, amid fears that the company would not ultimately secure approval. read more

Reporting by Uday Sampath in Bengaluru and Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta, Anil D'Silva, Richard Chang and Jonathan Oatis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.