Tribal Government & News

Tribal Council retains law firm to investigate potential claims against e-cigarette manufacturer

11.04.2020 Dean Rhodes Tribal Council, Health & Wellness
The Grand Ronde Tribe has retained the services of an Alaskan law firm to investigate and potentially file legal claims against Juul Labs Inc., the largest manufacturer of e-cigarettes in the United States. The company allegedly marketed its products to entice Native American and Alaskan Native youths. (Photo by Timothy J. Gonzalez/Smoke Signals)


By Dean Rhodes

Smoke Signals editor

The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde has joined a list of Tribal and nonTribal governmental entities in the United States going after Juul, which reportedly controls 75 percent of the e-cigarette market in the country.

Tribal Council voted on Wednesday, Nov. 4, to retain the services of law firm Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Endreson & Perry of Anchorage, Alaska, and two of its co-counsel firms to investigate and file potential legal claims against Jull Labs Inc. and its related companies and management.

Assistant Tribal Attorney Kim D’Aquila said during the Tuesday, Nov. 3, Legislative Action Committee that the firms would receive payment for reimbursable costs associated with investigating potential Tribal claims and be paid 25 percent of any financial settlements that the Tribe receives as a result of those claims.

The Tribe is going after Juul because Congress released evidence showing that Juul Labs targeted Native American Tribes and American Indian/Alaskan Native youth in promoting its products as a safe alternative to tobacco products.

However, the products actually are highly addictive and cause significant health issues.

“Juul and other manufacturers … falsely marketed and sold these products causing Tribes to suffer damages, including increased costs for health care, prevention and intervention programs,” states the executive summary regarding the issue.

Lawsuits have been filed against the e-cigarette manufacturer by other entities, accusing the company of failing to clearly state the dangerous chemicals contained in its products.

World Health Organization statistics show that vaping use has increased dramatically from about 7 million users in 2011 to 41 million in 2018 with the United States being the largest market in the world for vaping products.

Juul products are sold at Grand Ronde Station, the Tribally owned convenience store adjacent to Spirit Mountain Casino. However, General Manager Tim Jackson said the products are only sold to customers 21 or older who provide identification to prove their age.

In other action, Tribal Council:

  • Approved an amendment to clarify an easement on the former Lennis Mercier property that the Tribe purchased in 2012. The new language will provide Hubert Road landowners insurable access;
  • Approved applying for a $160,715 grant from the Bonneville Power Administration’s Willamette River Anchor Habitat Investments program to reconnect the North Santiam River to a back channel pond at the Chahalpam conservation property near Stayton in Marion County. Tribal Fish & Wildlife Program Manager Kelly Dirksen said the project hopefully will help flush predatory nonNative bullfrogs out of the back channel pond and enhance the environment for the once-endangered Oregon chub fish;
  • And approved the 2021 Department of the Interior funding agreement that will bring the Tribe $2.886 million in funding, an $88,425 increase from 2020.

Also included in the Nov. 4 Tribal Council packet was an approved authorization to proceed that authorizes General Manager David Fullerton to start a child care pilot program that would include procuring a modular building to accommodate children and staff. The pilot program, which would address a significant need in the Grand Ronde area for working parents, would be funded using CARES Act and Bureau of Indian Affairs COVID-19 funding through the end of 2021.

To view the entire meeting, visit the Tribal government’s website at and click on the Government tab and then Videos.