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House lawmaker wants any funds awarded in MN vape lawsuit to pay for tobacco prevention, treatment efforts

Electronic cigarette maker Juul Labs has a $438.5 million settlement with 34 states.

Minnesota is not among them.

Instead, the state will take Juul Labs and Altria to trial later this March.

Rep. Kaohly Vang Her (DFL-St. Paul) wants to use any money received from this legal action to fund a tobacco use prevention account. She sponsors HF2422 to do just that.

More specifically, state litigation involving alleged violations of laws for electronic nicotine delivery systems, or any act that contributes to youth nicotine use, would fund the newly created account.

House Health Finance and Policy Committee considers HF2422 3/9/23

The House Health Finance and Policy Committee laid the bill over Thursday for possible inclusion in an omnibus bill.

With potential annual appropriations from the account, supporters say the Department of Health could operate tobacco and electronic delivery use prevention and cessation projects and activities statewide, including promotional and educational materials and a public information program that promotes nonsmoking.

“JUUL developed sleek-looking products with menthol and candy flavors designed to appeal to kids with sky-high nicotine levels to addict users,” Her said. “Each JUUL pod contains more nicotine than a pack of cigarettes.”

Minnesota sued the tobacco industry in the 1990s, but only some of the subsequent funds went to anti-tobacco efforts.

Within the past year the state has collected nearly $800 million in tobacco taxes and settlement fees, Her said, but less than 1.5%, or $11.7 million, was spent on tobacco prevention and treatment.

Elyse Levine Less, executive director of Tobacco-Free Alliance, said cigarette smoking rates are at the lowest rate ever, but youth are still getting their nicotine fix.

“Thanks to JUUL and its targeted marketing to young people, its compact and easy-to-conceal design and its formulation to smoothly inhale high amounts of nicotine, we didn’t really get rid of the youth tobacco problem. It has instead morphed into a youth e-cigarette vaping problem of epidemic proportions, which started when JUUL came on the market.”

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