RICO, known as the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, was created to prosecute the Mafia in the 1970’s. So, why has Juul had a lawsuit brought against them with the RICO Act as the basis? RICO focuses on racketeering. It prosecuted the leaders of a syndicate for the crimes they ordered others to do or assisted them in doing. One common example is murder.1
A Young Teen Stricken With E-Cigarette Related Seizures
A 15 year old girl, Ashlynn NesSmith, in Sarasota County Florida has recently filed a class action lawsuit against Juul Labs Inc., Altria and Phillip Morris. She states that these companies violated the Federal RICO Act and engaged in “fraud, product liability, failure to warn, design defects, negligence, unjust enrichment and deceptive trade practices.”2 Since age 14, Ashlynn NesSmith has been “Juuling” and has inadvertently ingested some of the high level nicotine found inside the device. Ashlynn claims the high level of nicotine in the vaping device has made her addicted to it. She also claims that the ingestion of nicotine has lead to seizures.3
She states that these companies violated the Federal RICO Act and engaged in “fraud, product liability, failure to warn, design defects, negligence, unjust enrichment and deceptive trade practices.”
I do not want to downplay this young girl’s affliction in any way, but, this lawsuit seems very conveniently timed given the release of “Youth Vaping Epidemic” numbers by the CDC.4 Also, the constant parroting of this data by every mainstream media source in the U.S. “Vaping Seizures” was also a very highly searched and published term through March and April of this year.5 This lawsuit was filed towards the middle of April. Early reports of this lawsuit failed to mention Ashlynn’s pre-existing seizures before she started vaping.6
Is Juul Really Marketing To Teens?
The lawsuit claims that Juul has been “intentionally exploiting adolescents”. This statement points the finger at their advertising tactics. In the past, Juul has used ads plastered with smiling young adults, bright colors and geometric shapes. What makes that any different from alcohol ads that display smiling young people gathered around having a drink? Are these companies guilty of marketing to teens as well?
The focus really seems to be on vaping right now. But, we forget that other things like underage alcohol consumption still continues to be an issue as well. In a 2017, a CDC Survey discovered that 30% of all underage children drank some amount of alcohol. 14% of those children engaged in binge drinking.7 It’s almost as if the “experts” find a new and trending epidemic, put some quick bandage solution on it, let all the others fall by the wayside and then move on to the next hot topic without ever really finding a fix.
What Happens Next?
At this point, all we can do is wait and watch how it all plays out. If the lawsuit is based on health issues that arose from an underage person consuming a product that was illegal for them to possess and that this person obtained it by viewing bright and colorful advertisements, I don’t see it going very far. I truly hope that more parents educate themselves on these new trends. I also hope they educate their own children on the dangers of these trends and stop taking a backseat to parenting.
You have to wonder, if vaping was completely eliminated, what would the young people do with all that extra time? Go back to eating Tide Pods? Smoke cigarettes?
- NOLO – Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)
- ABC Action News Article – Class-action lawsuit filed against Juul on behalf of Sarasota teen ‘addicted’ to e-cigarettes
- Herald Tribune Article – “Sarasota family sues JUUL and tobacco giants”
- CDC Press Release – “E-cigarette use triples among middle and high school students in just one year”
- Google Trends – “Vaping Seizures” Search
- ABC News Article – “Sarasota family speaks out about JUUL lawsuit”
- CDC Fact Sheets – Underage Drinking