Cherokee Nation files lawsuit against JUUL

The attorney general for the Cherokee Nation Sara Hill, has filed a civil lawsuit on behalf of the tribe in Sequoyah County District Court against JUUL Labs, Inc., and 22 other companies which creates or market e-cigarettes since the cause of action occurred in Sequoyah County, the suit states.

Filed on Sept. 3 in Sequoyah County Court, the suit names Ploom Inc., Mother Murphy’s Lab, Inc; Alternative Ingredients, Inc; Tobacco Technology, Inc.; Eliquitech, Inc; McLane Company, Inc.; EBY-Brown Company, LLC; Core-Mark Holding Company, Inc.; Circle K Stores Inc.; Walmart, Walgreen Boots Alliance, Inc; GPM Invetiment, Inc;Casey’s General Stores, Inc.; Murphy USA, Inc; QuickTrip Corporation; Kum&Go, Inc.; Petes of Erie, Inc.; and Pilot Travel Centers LLCD/B/A Pilot Flying J as defendants in addition to Juul Labs, Inc. previously d/b/a as Pax Labs, Inc., as defendants.

According to the suit, the tribe is seeking injunctive relief, compensatory damages, disgorgement, restitution, punitive damages, and any other relief allowed by law against the defendants.

Defendant Juul Labs, Inc. (JLI) based in San Francisco, Calif., marketed, advertised and sold its products throughout Oklahoma including the Cherokee Nation. The Cherokee Nation states JLI and its related “joint” entities “deliberately engaged in significant acts and omissions that have injured the Cherokee Nation and its citizens. “The Cherokee Nation’s claims arise out of those activities,” the suit states.

The 68-page suit includes the petition against all the defendants, jurisdiction and venue, facts which are common to all claims which outlines many reasons as to why JLI “creates a highly addictive product to appeal to the youth market and how using JUUL can lead to illness, disease and other adverse health consequences.”

Cherokee Nation issued the following statement regarding the suit:

“A particularly insidious marketing practice of Juul’s was to use Native Americans as a testing ground for its products. The United States House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, in a memorandum dated February 5, 2020, found that Juul had used Native American tribes as “guinea pigs” for the testing and introduction of their products and marketing methods. Juul sold vaping “starter kits” to various tribes and encouraged tribal governments to provide the kits, without cost, to their citizens all the while asserting the baseless claim that its products were a safe alternative to smoking.

“Juul created a vaping epidemic throughout this country,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr., “but Native American teenagers in the Cherokee Nation and others were used by these companies in a way that was truly evil. Knowing that historical efforts to manipulate tribal nations have made Native Americans more vulnerable to addiction, Juul specifically targeted Native American children to test its products and marketing methods.

“My commitment to the health and safety of the citizens of the Nation, as well as my commitment to future generations, means that I cannot sit idly by while corporate predators like Juul prey on the youth and other vulnerable parts of our population.”

Juul’s actions are even more reprehensible because The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) have found that Native Americans have the highest prevalence of smoking compared to all racial or ethnic groups in the United States. Quitting rates are also relatively low among Native American youths compared to other ethnic groups.

Juul contributed to the vaping epidemic that has devastated the health of the youth of the Cherokee Nation. According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey data, 16.1% of Native American middle school students and 40.4% of Native American high school students were current users of e-cigarette products. A recent Stanford University research study found that teens who vaped were five to seven times more likely to be infected by COVID-19 than those who did not use e-cigarettes.

“It has been well established that the use of e-cigarettes, including JUUL, can lead to acute and chronic lung injuries such as lipoid pneumonia, organizing March pneumonia, 22, 2020 chemical pneumonitis, alveolar hemorrhage, bronchiolitis obliterans (popcorn lung), pneumothorax, acute respiratory failure, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), asthma, emphysema and COPD. October 2019, the CDC defined a newly recognized medical condition defined as E-cigarette, or Vaping, Product Use Associated Lung Injury illnesses or “EVALI.”

“The Nation will aggressively pursue its legal remedies to abate this public health nuisance,” said Attorney General Sara Hill said “We have assembled a top-flight legal team to litigate on behalf of the Cherokee Nation and we are committed to achieving justice for our citizens, particularly our youth.”

The suit also includes names of several attorneys involved including Sallisaw Attorney Frank Sullivan who could also not be reached for comment as of press time.

Your TIMES will include any future comments and or information concerning the lawsuit as it becomes available.

Sequoyah County Times

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