Programs to combat Colorado’s youth vaping crisis get millions in new funding from Juul settlement

Altria Juul
Julio Cortez/AP
A man displays his Juul electronic cigarette while shopping at a convenience, Dec. 20, 2018.

Dozens of schools, governmental entities and non-profits will get new funding to combat the youth vaping crisis. Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser on Tuesday announced the distribution of more than $17 million to 42 groups. 

The money comes from a nearly $32 million legal settlement with e-cigarette manufacturer Juul, part of a national agreement, according to a press release from the attorney general’s office.

In 2020, the state sued Juul over its marketing practices, finding it advertised directly to young people and misrepresented its products' health risks. The money will go to programs focused on education, prevention and treatment of youth vaping. They may include mental and behavioral health services.

"By investing in these organizations, we are taking a critical step toward protecting our youth from the dangers of vaping. This funding will empower communities to educate our young people about the risks, implement preventive measures, and provide essential treatment for those affected," said Weiser, in the release. “Together, we can create a healthier future for our children and help them not turn to vaping in the first place.”

The funds were granted via a pair of programs: one for nonprofits and government entities, and another for local education institutions in a partnership with the Colorado Department of Education.

Six million dollars comes from the Colorado Department of Law’s Combating Youth Vaping in Colorado Grant. The department received 31 grant applications requesting more than $18 million.

According to the release, the AG’s office said the awards will go to a dozen programs:

  • 21st Judicial District Attorney’s Office, Juvenile Diversion Lighthouse Program, $224,010 -
    • This program will implement vaping education and prevention for youth in Mesa County, reaching underserved rural communities with evidence-based curriculums and community support.
  • Boys & Girls Club in Colorado, Inc., $855,979 -
    • This initiative will prevent youth substance use through evidence-based programs, community engagement, and peer-led activities in 50 clubhouses across the state.
  • Broomfield Public Health and Environment, $202,184 -
    • The team will offer nicotine replacement therapy and peer support to help young people quit vaping, with a focus on LGBTQ+ youth.
  • Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, $541,158 (pending) -
    • Addressing youth vaping, the program will deliver trauma-informed counseling, nicotine replacement therapy, and community engagement with support from a Youth Advisory Board.
  • Mountain Youth, $500,000 -
    • The project will address youth vaping in Eagle River Valley by providing prevention education, media campaigns, cessation programs, and youth-led initiatives.
  • Jefferson County Public Health, $400,000 -
    • A collaborative project will engage youth action boards and community partners to deliver education and cessation services for youth.
  • Partners of Delta, Montrose and Ouray, $297,161 -
    • Mentors will support middle and high school students with behavioral issues through school-based programs focused on prevention education and personal development.
  • Partners for Youth, $335,487 -
    • Supporting youth by connecting them with trusted adults, this initiative will engage them in Youth Action Councils and prevent substance use through positive development activities.
  • Rocky Mountain Center for Health Promotion and Education, $800,000 -
    • Enhancing protective factors against youth substance use, the program will train adults to build strong connections with youth in family, school, and community settings.
  • Servicios de La Raza, $950,000 -
    • Deploying a bilingual cessation program for Latino youth, the organization will also launch a youth-led prevention campaign with educational outreach.
  • University of Colorado/Colorado School of Public Health, UpRISE, $544,018 -
    • Expanding a youth-led social justice movement for tobacco control, this initiative will provide educational programs, build organizational partnerships, and engage a diverse Youth Action Board.
  • Youth Healthcare Alliance, $350,000 -
    • School-based health centers will collaborate in an alternative to discipline model that addresses youth vaping within the context of understanding and responding to behavioral health needs.

The department is also working with the state education department to award more than $11 million to local education groups over the next three years.

Forty school districts, charter schools, and BOCES applied for the Vaping Education Prevention Grant for programming starting in the fall 2024 semester, with 30 providers awarded the following amounts for the first year:

Adams Arapahoe 28J$140,267
Alamosa RE 11J$244,968
Atlas Prep$85,000
AXL Academy$238,000
Bennett 29J$218,547
Center Consolidated School District 26JT$198,098
Chavez/Huerta K-12 Preparatory Academy$46,940
Colorado Military Academy$117,471
District 49$126,961
Dolores County RE2$45,681
Downtown Denver Expeditionary$78,000
DSST Schools$114,000
Eagle County RE50$213,353
Elizabeth School District$130,217
Fountain 8$131,009
Gunnison RE-1J$74,534
Harrison 2$253,405
Lake County$87,543
Montrose County RE 1J$100,000
New Legacy Charter$71,624
North Park R-1$187,545
Pueblo County 70$127,657
San Luis Valley BOCES$273,870
Sierra Grande R-30$100,985
Southern Peaks Regional Treatment Center$36,181
Steamboat Springs RE-2$125,635
Strasburg 31J$91,500

“We are pleased to award this grant funding to fight the youth vaping crisis by providing resources for education, prevention and treatment in our Colorado schools,” said Colorado Education Commissioner Susana Córdova in the release. “Our goal is to give local educators the tools they need to address the health impacts of vaping on our youth.”

Both grants are part of what the AG’s office calls a “comprehensive, multifaceted approach” to address the immediate and long-lasting health implications of youth vaping. Last month, Weiser announced a $20 million initiative to boost school-community partnerships and promote youth mental health and wellness statewide. Applications for this granting opportunity open in the fall of 2024 and close early in 2025.

About the settlement

In 2020, the state sued Juul over its marketing practices. Its investigation found the company advertised directly to young people and misrepresented the health risks of its products.

Colorado was the top state in the nation per capita for teen vaping when the state filed the suit. One in six Colorado teens reported they had vaped in the past month, according to state data from 2021, with the number falling further in the latest data from 2023.

But the impact of the Juul generation has continued to make an impact on young people as they age into adulthood. Data from the state health department show adult vaping rates are rising in Colorado, driven by a sharp increase among young, college-age adults, those 18 to 24. 

In its investigation, the state found the company targeted “cool kids” in ads and social media campaigns. It hired “brand ambassadors” to hand out free samples to young people at convenience stores in the state. It hired social media influencers to promote the products as a way to introduce young people to e-cigarettes.

Vaping took off around the country as a result and “Juuling” became a ubiquitous expression and habit for many young people, Weiser said when the settlement was announced.

Social media, including Instagram or YouTube, became key venues for the message. Weiser said the company was, “very aware of the virality of social media, aware of the norms of social media. Juul identified influences that young people would pay attention to and set up what I'll call negative social norms. Juul or Juuling is cool. That was the norm.”

Under the agreement, Juul is banned in the future from using those marketing tactics.