Juul Labs has been in the news a lot lately—and for all the wrong reasons. After the FDA essentially threatened to seize its products last month if it didn’t revise its safety claims, the company’s CEO, Kevin Burns, stepped down, leaving the once-hip startup in the hands of an old-school tobacco executive. Add to that a growing outbreak of vaping-related illnesses and deaths, and it’s no exaggeration to say that Juul is fighting for its very existence.
So it was probably only a matter of time before all this scandal caught the attention of product-liability lawyers, and boy has it. According to NewsWhip, a company that tracks engagement on social media, one of the top “articles” on Facebook last month was a website called Juul-Claims.com, which was apparently set up by a Houston-based law firm informing people that they may be entitled to “significant compensation” if they or their child experienced health problems after using Juul products.
The page, which includes an online form and a 1-800 number, invites people to submit to a “free claim evaluation.” NewsWhip says this page received more than 3.6 million engagements on Facebook in September, making it the second most viral article on the social network that month.
NewsWhip released the data as part of its monthly roundup of the top publishers on Facebook. Most of the articles that go viral on the site are from major publishers or outlets with large Facebook pages. It’s unusual, to say the least, for a lawyer’s makeshift webpage to find itself in the top 15, let alone make it all the way to No. 2. It’s possible that the website was helped by paid advertising (for instance, if the link was included in a promoted post), but even if that’s the case, it wouldn’t bode well for Juul, since it means someone is putting money behind spreading the page.
I’ve reached out to Juul for comment and will update if I hear back.
The CDC said this week that 1,604 cases of vaping-related lung injuries in 49 states have now been reported. While a specific cause hasn’t been identified (there could be multiple causes, per the CDC), products purchased off the street that contain THC appear to be the bigger threat. As the e-cigarette market leader, Juul has been blamed more generally for a stark rise in youth vaping, which is now said to comprise some 25% of high school students.