HOUSTON - Meredith Berkman is happy to hear the latest news on the e-cigarette company that she says targeted her teenage son with marketing at his high school in 2018.
In April of that year, Berkman and her two friends, Dina Alessi and Dorian Fuhrman, started a website to raise awareness of the rise of youth vaping.
According to their website, a JUUL representative had entered their sons’ New York-area high-school through an outside anti-addiction group, without the school’s knowledge, and told the 9th-grade students, without adults present, that JUUL was "totally safe" and would receive FDA approval "any day."
"As the first parents to publicly sound the alarm about the predatory behavior of JUUL, we're enormously gratified," says Berkman.
JUUL has reached a settlement with 33 states, including Texas. The company will pay $438 million after a two-year investigation concluded JUUL aimed to sell their nicotine product to underage consumers.
Meredith, the co-founder of Parents Against Vaping E-Cigarettes, testified in front of the U.S. Congress in 2019. She says JUUL has led the way in causing lung damage and nicotine addictions among young people.
Samantha Boy, one of their volunteers based out of Houston, spoke with FOX 26 in 2021 about how e-cigarettes caused her daughter to deal with illness and a severe nicotine addiction.
"It opened a disastrous Pandora's box that this country has not yet been able to close," says Berkman. "There have been so many companies that have followed JUUL's predatory behavior."
The Food & Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control found that over five million middle and high school students used e-cigarettes in 2019, and almost one million used an e-cigarette each day.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's office led the investigation with multiple states and issued this statement:
"When I launched this investigation over two years ago, my goal was to make sure JUUL was held liable for any wrongdoing done in the past and ensure that they change direction to fully comply with the law going forward. This settlement helps accomplish both of those priorities. My commitment to protecting consumers from deceptive business practices is unwavering, and any company that misleads Texans, especially our youth, will be held accountable for their actions."
Texas will receive nearly $43 million of that settlement - the office tells FOX 26 the settlement will be finalized over the next few weeks and will include details about how the funds are divided.
The timeline is a six to 10-year payout.
"We're going to continue doing what we do," says Berman. "This is important. You can't put a cost on the harm that this company and the others that have followed have done to families all across the country, all over Texas, and other parts of the country."