JUUL, Altria settle for $60.5 million with Minnesota over vaping epidemic

Following a settlement with e-cigarette manufacturer JUUL and tobacco marketer Altria over its role in the vaping epidemic, Minnesota is set to receive a payout of $60.5 million over seven years, according to an announcement from Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison on Wednesday.

The settlement requires JUUL to pay more than one-third of the settlement within 30 days, and 60% within the first year. The funds can then be dedicated by the Minnesota Legislature for further tobacco use mitigation.

"Four years ago we were tasked with protecting the lungs of young people in Minnesota, and I’m proud to tell you we’ve done so. They baited, deceived and addicted a whole new generation of Minnesota kids, so they could make money. This has been a historic journey," said Ellison on Wednesday. "We sent out a very clear message that we will not tolerate marketing nicotine products to the children of Minnesota."

According to Ellison, the settlement is larger than all the money made in Minnesota between 2015-2021, saying, "We have extracted all the money they should have never made in the first place. We got all the money back."

The "major wins" of the settlement include thousands of internal documents that will be made public for journalists to review from both JUUL and Altria, according to Ellison. It also prohibits the companies from marketing or selling to young adults in Minnesota again.

"We were the only state willing to take these bad actors to trial," Ellison said. "Sunlight is the best disinfectant."

Minnesota’s attorney and litigation fees will also be paid as a result of the settlement.

Ellison sued JUUL in 2019 for violating the state's consumer protection laws, breaching its duty of reasonable care and creating a public nuisance. Ellison said at the time of the lawsuit, youth vaping reached its peak in Minnesota, but prior to JUUL's emergence, Minnesota had been seeing the lowest levels of youth tobacco use in decades.

Minnesota settled its lawsuit with JUUL and Altria a day before closing arguments were scheduled to begin on April 18, Ellison said in a news release.

Previous settlements with JUUL in other states include California getting $175.8 million, New York ($113 million), Illinois ($67.6 million), Massachusetts ($41.7 million), Colorado ($31.7 million), New Mexico ($17 million) and the District of Columbia ($15 million).

Minnesota’s settlement will be the largest per capita settlement in the country, according to Ellison

"This is very personal as a father of a 16-year-old daughter," said Minnesota Governor Tim Walz. "Ellison has certainly earned his tagline as the ‘people’s lawyer.'"

JUUL statement on settlement

A spokesperson issued the following statement to FOX 9:

"Resolution of issues from the company’s past and its historical legal challenges has remained a critical priority to secure certainty for our future. While we appreciate the court and jury’s time, attention, and professionalism throughout the trial, we are pleased to have reached a settlement with the state and will work to finalize this agreement over the coming weeks. We have now settled with 48 states and territories, providing over $1 billion to participating states to further combat underage use and develop cessation programs. This is in addition to our global resolution of the U.S. private litigation that covers more than 5,000 cases brought by approximately 10,000 plaintiffs.

"As we reach total resolution of the company’s past, we are focused on our path forward to maximize the value and impact of our product technology and scientific foundation. Our technology already has transitioned over two million adult smokers from combustible cigarettes. And our priorities remain to secure authorization of our PMTAs based on the science and lead the category with innovation to accelerate our mission and advance tobacco harm reduction for over 31 million adult smokers in the U.S. and over 1 billion adult smokers worldwide."