North Carolina becomes first state to sue e-cigarette maker JUUL for targeting teens

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein is taking a strong stance against e-cigarette maker JUUL.

His office filed a lawsuit against JUUL, alleging the company markets and sells its e-cigarettes to attract young people and for misrepresenting the potency and danger of nicotine in its products.

North Carolina is the first state to take legal action against JUUL.

"JUUL targeted young people as customers. As a result, vaping has become an epidemic among minors," said Attorney General Josh Stein. "JUUL's business practices are not only reckless, they're illegal. And I intend to put a stop to them. We cannot allow another generation of young people to become addicted to nicotine."

We first told you about what's known as Juuling last spring.

Many teens and even kids told us they can easily purchase the e-cigarettes and many kids are even Juuling while at school.

In 2017, nearly 17 percent of all North Carolina high school students reported using an e-cigarette within the past 30 days. Within the last year, use of e-cigarettes increased among high-schoolers nationally by 78 percent and among by middle-schoolers by 48 percent.

Luka Kinnard, 16, said he started Juuling to fit in with his classmates and he quickly became addicted.

He said one of the reasons he Juuled was that it was easy to hide.

"A lot of times we want our fix when we're addicts and you can't smoke a cigarette in a classroom but you can for sure Juul." Kinnard quit Juuling after spending time in rehab for his vaping addiction.

Stein alleges JUUL routinely understated the strength of nicotine in its products and downplayed their health risks. In the lawsuit, he claims the potency of a typical JUUL pod is so strong and addictive that it is nearly three times the permissible concentration allowed for sale in a number of countries for people of all ages.

Attorney General Stein is requesting the court to require JUUL to cease selling e-cigarettes to minors in North Carolina, limit the flavors sold in the state, stop advertising and marketing practices that are intended to or likely to appeal to minors, and delete all customer data for customers whom JUUL cannot confirm are at least 18 years old.

Attorney General Stein is also requesting civil penalties, disgorgement of JUUL's profits from its unfair and deceptive practices to the state as well as other fees and costs.

A spokesperson for JUUL Labs provided this statement in response to Stein's lawsuit:

"While we have not yet seen the complaint, we share the Attorney General's concerns about youth vaping, which is why we have been cooperating with his office and why we have taken the most aggressive actions of anyone in the industry to combat youth usage. We strongly advocate for T21 legislation, we stopped the sale of non-tobacco and non-menthol based flavored JUULpods to our traditional retail store partners, enhanced our online age-verification process, strengthened our retailer compliance program with over 2,000 secret shopper visits per month, and shut down our Facebook and Instagram accounts while working constantly to remove inappropriate social media content generated by others on those platforms. Finally, we continue to develop technologies to further restrict underage access."
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