According to the suit, 250,000 tainted contaminated vape liquid refills, which contained a million vape pods, were shipped to retailers last March.
A lawsuit filed by Siddharth Breja, Juul’s former senior vice president of global finance, alleges that the e-cigarette company knowingly sold contaminated vape liquid refills to customers and that he was fired when he expressed concern about the harm this could cause to the public.
Contaminated Vape Liquid Refills
According to the suit, 250,000 tainted “Mint Refill Kits,” which contained a million individual vape pods, were shipped to retailers in March 2019. When Juul discovered the issue, the company decided not to issue a recall or warn customers of the potential danger.
March was around the time that cases of mysterious lung injuries that seemed to be connected to vaping began to appear across the US. So far, the data suggests that the majority of these cases are connected to black market THC oil products rather than nicotine-based products such as the ones sold by Juul.
However, the timing for the industry-dominant company couldn’t be worse. It was also around the time that reports of young people having seizures after using Juul products cropped up.
“Half Our Customers Are Drunk And Vaping Like Mo-Fo’s”
According to Breja, the actions (or lack thereof) by Juul were taken out of greed in a toxic work environment that was all about profits. He says that when he expressed concern about the company selling expired or nearly expired products, ex-CEO Kevin Burns did not show much respect or compassion for his customers.
“Half our customers are drunk and vaping like mo-fo’s,” Burns stated according to the suit, “who the f**k is going to notice the quality of our pods.”
Burns, who stepped down in September, is also accused of frequently berating his employees, such as when the company’s decision to remove their fruity flavors from retail shelves led to a supply shortage.
Juul released a statement on Wednesday (Sept. 25) saying that it will not fight a federal ban on flavored vaping products and that it will stop advertising its products immediately. In addition, CEO Kevin Burns is stepping down and will be replaced by K.C. Crosthwaite, former chief growth officer at Altria Group Inc.
In the statement, the company said that it has already taken steps to combat underage use of its products:
“JUUL Labs has strongly advocated for Tobacco 21 (T21) laws, stopped the sale of non-tobacco and non-menthol-based flavored JUULpods to all of its traditional retail store partners, enhanced its online age verification, discontinued its U.S.-based Facebook and Instagram accounts and works to remove inappropriate social media content generated by others on those platforms. The company also intensified efforts to combat illegal and potentially dangerous counterfeit and compatible products. Most recently, JUUL Labs started deploying technology at retail stores that automatically restricts the sale of JUUL products until a government-issued ID is electronically scanned to verify age and ID validity, exceeding the standards in place for other tobacco products and alcohol.”
“You need to have an IQ of 5 to know that when customers don’t find mango they buy mint,” he said to the supply-chain team.
Breja is suing Juul for wrongful termination and retaliating against whistleblowing, among other charges. The suit was filed on Tuesday in the US District Court for the Northern District of California.
A Juul spokesperson provided a statement denying the allegations to Ars Technica.
“Mr. Breja’s claims are baseless,” it reads. “He was terminated in March 2019 because he failed to demonstrate the leadership qualities needed in his role. The allegations concerning safety issues with Juul products are equally meritless, and we already investigated the underlying manufacturing issue and determined the product met all applicable specifications.”