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Juul: Vaping attracts fresh funding despite new lawsuits

Man smokes Juul Image copyright AFP

Investors have pumped another $325m into e-cigarette market leader maker Juul Labs despite growing health concerns and fresh legal action.

The money will help finance the US firm's global growth at a time of greater regulatory scrutiny at home.

Juul, 35%-owned by Marlboro maker Altria, has been accused of targeting its vaping devices at children, which the company denies.

On Monday, Bloomberg reported the company faced another lawsuit.

A 19-year-old claimed in court filings in Chicago that he became addicted to nicotine and suffered worsening asthma symptoms after he began using Juul's device at the age of 16.

He alleges that Juul and Philip Morris (owned by Altria) violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, adopting the tobacco industry's past use of catchy advertising campaigns aimed at children. Several other individuals have already started legal action against Juul.

Juul recently launched its products in South Korea, the Philippines and Indonesia, and has stepped up marketing in the UK.

But in the US, the company faces increased scrutiny, including from the Food and Drug Administration.

'Sorry'

The US Surgeon General has called vaping an "epidemic", and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Saturday it is looking into a cluster of 94 possible cases of severe lung illness associated with vaping in 14 states.

In June, San Francisco banned the sale of e-cigarettes and online deliveries to addresses in the city.

The company has tried to tackle use by children, including withdrawing from sale its popular sweet and fruit flavours.

Juul has also shut its Facebook and Instagram account after being accused by critics of marketing to young people. The company's early adverts featured bright colours and young models.

In July, the boss of Juul apologised to parents whose children were vaping. "I'd tell [parents] I'm sorry their child's using the product. It's not intended for them," Kevin Burns said in a television documentary aired by CNBC.

A Juul spokesman said on Tuesday its products are helping to eliminate traditional tobacco and are a viable alternative for adult smokers. "We have never marketed to youth and do not want any non-nicotine users to try our products," he said.

The latest lawsuit, he added, "simply copies and pastes allegations previously raised in Florida which we are actively contesting".

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