A suit filed on October 29 claims that e-cigarette manufacturer JUUL Labs sent over one million mint-flavored nicotine pods to market, Buzzfeed News reports. Siddharth Breja, a former executive at the San Francisco company, alleges that JUUL knew that it had sent contaminated pods to market but failed to alert consumers or issue a recall of the products. Breja says in the complaint that former JUUL CEO Kevin Burns ruled the company in a “dictatorial” manner, maintaining a “culture of silence” around regulatory and safety issues.
JUUL has increasingly come under fire after a string of deaths linked to e-cigarettes or vaping products. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has, as of October 22, linked 34 deaths to use of the products and has received reports of lung injury in users in 49 states and the District of Columbia. The New York Times found that over 1,600 cases of vaping illnesses have been reported in the United States. These injuries, combined with evidence that JUUL marketed their products to children, have led several consumers to file lawsuits against the e-cigarette company.
On October 16, JUUL was hit with a wrongful death suit brought by a Flordia woman whose 18-year-old son died in his sleep. Lisa Vail said that her son had become addicted to JUUL products and was hospitalized three times for lung and breathing complications that she attributes to vaping. School districts are also suing the company, claiming that the products endanger their students and divert school resources to battling nicotine addiction.
These suits and broader criticism of JUUL have led to internal shakeups in the company. Top executives are out and the company plans to lay off 10 to 15% of its staff. Breja’s suit is likely to bring more attention to the company, which remains under investigation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Federal Trade Commission, state attorneys general, and several congressional committees.
JUUL says that Breja’s suit is baseless and says it will defend itself against his claims.