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Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe Files Complaint Against JUUL Labs, Inc.

Jun 23, 2020

AKWESASNE — The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council announced it has formally filed a complaint against JUUL Labs, Inc. for targeting tribal youth in their marketing and sale of e-cigarette products. The complaint was filed on Ohiarí:ha/June 15, 2020 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California—the Court in charge of current Multi-District Litigation coordination for the many lawsuits already filed against JUUL.

The Tribe is joined by several tribal nations who have recently filed suit against JUUL, including the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, Klamath Tribes, Oglala Sioux Tribe, Pala Band of Mission Indians, Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, Suquamish Tribe, and Tunica-Biloxi Indian Tribe.

“E-cigarette flavors like crème brûlée, mango and fruit medley are being produced and marketed specifically for one consumer group—our youth,” stated Tribal Chief Michael Conners. Chief Conners added, “With so many adverse health effects and fatalities that are just now being made known from inhaling aerosols containing toxic chemicals, the complaint seeks to hold JUUL accountable for the severe medical problems associated with their e-cigarette products.”

While the damage caused by e-cigarettes has been widespread, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that smoking rates among tribal youth are higher than other racial or ethnic groups. The CDC reports that more than 20% of tribal middle school and high school students have used tobacco products, with e-cigarettes being the most popular device.

“Most tobacco use is established during adolescence and often leads to a host of health problems associated with a lifetime of nicotine addiction,” stated Tribal Chief Beverly Cook. Chief Cook noted, “Because youth are more likely to take risks with their health and safety, they are at a greater risk of using e-cigarette products that are highly addictive and damaging to their health.”

In the complaint, the Tribe alleges that JUUL’s design, marketing, and distribution of its vaping products to minors—specifically targeting tribal youth, despite knowing that they are more susceptible to addiction than non-Native Americans—has resulted in a youth vaping epidemic in tribal communities.

The Tribe also alleges that JUUL has deceptively pushed e-cigarettes as a way to help people stop smoking, while in reality the devices were intended as a new delivery vehicle for nicotine that raked in profits for the companies. For instance, JUUL has specifically targeted Native American communities through “switching programs,” in which tribal members were encouraged to take up vaping instead of combustible cigarettes.

“We believe JUUL has specifically and deceptively targeted tribal communities through its deceptive and misleading sales and marketing practices,” noted Tribal Chief Eric Thompson. Chief Thompson added, “For the sole purpose of their own financial gain, JUUL has flooded the market with a highly addictive product that has placed an undue burden on our healthcare, prevention and intervention services, and public safety.”

The Tribe is not seeking to recover damages on behalf of individual tribal members, but rather it is seeking damages associated with responding and addressing the e-cigarette epidemic that has been perpetuated by JUUL amongst our tribal youth.

The Tribe is represented in the case by attorneys from Hobbs, Straus, Dean & Walker, LLP; Frazer PLC; and Beggs & Lane RLLP.


The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council is the duly elected and federally recognized government of the Saint Regis Mohawk People.