On October 16, the Montgomery County Council publicly authorized its lawsuit filed in federal court on October 11, against Juul Labs and Altria Group for alleged violations of Maryland and federal law based on claims of aggressive marketing of e-cigarette products to minors.
Council President Nancy Navarro remarked, “The Council authorizes taking legal action against Juul Labs and Altria Group. This lawsuit supports our ongoing efforts to protect our community members from the public health impacts associated with e-cigarette products and vaping. While the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), state and local health departments are investigating the multistate outbreak of lung injuries and deaths associated with vaping products, Montgomery County is taking proactive steps through the legislative process and the courts to help protect our community members from lung related illnesses and addiction.”
The County Council’s press release announcing the lawsuit also noted that three pieces of legislation are pending in Montgomery County with the goal of restricting sales of e-cigarettes and keeping such products away from minors. These are:
Bill 29-19, Health and Sanitation – Electronic Cigarettes – Distribution, and a companion Zoning Text Amendment 19-06, Vape Shops, which would prohibit manufacturers of e-cigarettes from distributing them to retail stores within a half mile of a middle or high school. The stated goal of these measures is to protect the health of minors and limit their ability to purchase nicotine vaping products, given that it is illegal for retailers to sell such products to Montgomery County residents under the age of 21, with the exemption of active duty service members over the age of 18.
Bill 31-19, Health and Sanitation – Electronic Cigarettes – Distribution, which would prohibit the distribution of any tobacco product, coupon redeemable for a tobacco product, cigarette rolling paper or electronic cigarette to any individual under 21 except under certain circumstances. Bill 31-19 also would prohibit an individual under 21 from using or possessing a tobacco product or electronic cigarette except under certain circumstances. The stated goal of this legislation is to update Montgomery County law to reflect state law changes and provide an enforcement mechanism for minors using and possessing tobacco products and electronic cigarettes.
Bill 32-19, Health and Sanitation – Flavored Electronic Cigarettes, which would prohibit electronic smoking device manufacturers from distributing flavored electronic cigarettes to retail stores within a mile of any middle or high school, library, park, playground or recreational facility in Montgomery County. The stated goal of this legislation is to protect the health of minors and limit their ability to purchase nicotine vaping products.
Troutman Sanders’ Tobacco Team will continue to monitor the progress of Montgomery County’s lawsuit and legislative initiatives. We expect other localities to follow with similar actions against the e-cigarette industry.