April 17 (Reuters) - E-cigarette company Juul Labs Inc and its former largest investor, Marlboro maker Altria Group Inc (MO.N), on Monday settled claims by the state of Minnesota that accused them of fueling teen vaping addiction.
The settlement was announced by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and by Juul as a trial in the case, which had kicked off in late March, was nearing its end.
It is the latest in a series of settlements over e-cigarette marketing practices by Juul, but the first such public settlement by Altria, which still faces thousands of similar lawsuits including one by San Francisco's public school district set to go to trial next week.
Ellison said in a statement that the settlement was in "the best interest of Minnesotans" and that its terms would be announced in 30 days.
A Juul spokesman said the company was pleased with the deal and "focused on our path forward to maximize the value and impact of our product technology and scientific foundation."
Altria did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Minnesota's lawsuit, filed in 2019, was the first to go to trial of thousands by state governments, school districts and individuals around the country against Juul and Altria over underage vaping.
Juul has now settled most of that litigation, agreeing to pay more than $1 billion to settle with 48 states and territories including Minnesota, and $1.7 billion to resolve thousands of lawsuits by individuals and local government entities. Only Florida, Michigan, Maine and Alaska have not reached settlements with the company.
Minnesota, like other plaintiffs, alleged that Juul sold its e-cigarettes in sweet flavors and promoted them on social media to appeal to underage consumers. It said Altria helped Juul market its products, including by providing it access to its sales force and including Juul advertisements in Marlboro products.
Both companies have denied wrongdoing.
Juul in 2019 pulled most of its e-cigarette flavors from the market and halted much of its advertising under pressure from regulators. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last June briefly banned the products, though it put the ban on hold and agreed to reconsider after the company appealed.
Altria last month announced that it had given up its investment in Juul in exchange for some of Juul's intellectual property. As of December, its share of Juul was valued at $250 million, down from $12.8 billion in 2018.