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Altria Loses Juul Appeal in British Columbia

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Altria Group has lost an appeal to challenge the territorial jurisdiction of the British Columbia courts in a Juul class action lawsuit, reports Victoria Now.

“The plaintiffs allege the e-cigarette devices are hazardous products but were falsely marketed as a desirable, safe and healthier alternative to smoking,” the civil claim states. “The plaintiffs additionally allege that the defendants conspired together to addict a new generation to nicotine or, alternatively, conspired to maintain and expand the market for Juul products using unlawful means knowing that addiction and other injuries were likely to result.”

Altria was brought into the litigation with Juul Labs Canada and Juul Labs USA in September 2020, a year after the original civil claim was filed, following Altria acquiring a 35 percent stake in Juul in 2018 for $12.8 billion.

According to the litigation, Juul and Altria allegedly “conspired” to “employ strategies perfected in the cigarette industry” to advertise and market Juul products to youth.

“It is alleged that the defendants exploited regulatory loopholes and relied on social media and other viral advertising methods to hook young people on Juul, despite the defendants’ knowledge of the dangers associated with vaping. Altria is alleged to have provided strategies, analyses and services to the defendants in furtherance of the conspiracy,” a judgment reads.

Altria’s claim that the British Columbia courts did not have jurisdiction over the action was dismissed in 2022. Altria then appealed the decision, claiming the judge “failed to address evidence that was materially relevant.”

Altria argued that the judge ignored or misconceived evidence that Altria did not ship Juul products to Canada or send Juul marketing materials to Canadian addresses, among other things.

The appeal decision found that there is not a real and substantial connection because class members may have “hopped the border and been influenced by Altria’s activities in the United States.”

“Rather,” the appeal decision reads, “the judge found that the respondents established a good arguable case that Altria was a party to a conspiracy to advertise and market Juul e-cigarettes to young people in a manner that was misleading about the health risks, including the risk of addiction.”