North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein announced Monday that he has launched an investigation into Juul, an e-cigarette company.
He sent the company a civil investigative demand to ask for more information about Juul's marketing practices, retailers, contact with resellers, efforts to verify age before purchase, and any youth education and awareness programs.
He also asked for information about the number of North Carolinians using Juul.
This comes just weeks after the US Food and Drug Administration conducted an inspection of the company's corporate headquarters in San Francisco, seizing thousands of documents, many of which relate to the company's sales and marketing practices.
"The use of e-cigarettes among young people is increasing at staggering rates," said Attorney General Stein. "Juul dominates the market. I am extremely concerned about the way Juul has marketed its product to young people, who face increased risk for addiction and exposure to health problems."
According to the CDC, 2.1 million high schoolers and middle schoolers reported using e-cigarettes in 2017. By the fall of 2018, that number had grown to approximately 3.7 million minors using e-cigarettes.
"It's everywhere. And I don't think that kids or parents fully appreciate the danger that this product poses to young people. Nicotine is an incredibly addictive drug, and just the change in the brain chemistry in a young person can lead them, can make them much more likely to become addicted to other substances down the road," said Stein.
One of the areas of concern is online retail.
"If somebody is selling into North Carolina, then they're subject to our laws, so we will be able to enforce the law against. them. What I want to know, does JUUL have protections in place to make sure that their products don't get sold by these online retailers who don't care about who they sell the products to? What we don't want is companies chasing a buck and putting the health of our young people at risk. It's unacceptable," said Stein.
On the local level, Wake County students are helping lead the charge to combat the growing use among teens.
"It's very easy concealable, and it's really portable, and it's just so common," Maya Nair, a senior at Enloe High School explained.
Nair is part of the Youth Advisory Council for N.C. Child, a statewide advocacy organization.
She met with the Wake County School Board to discuss the popularity of e-cigarette products and their dangers.
Her efforts helped lead to direct change both inside and outside of the classroom.
The district has expanded their tobacco policy to include e-cigarettes, and are working with students to update their curriculum to include lessons about e-cigarettes.
In the meantime, Nair is continuing to warn fellow students about the products.
"It's a lot more different when I'm talking to my friends and saying 'this is not good for you,' versus someone older saying 'this is not good for you," said Nair.
In a statement about the ongoing investigation, Kevin Burns, JUUL Labs Chief Executive Officer wrote,
"Our priority is the same as Attorney General Stein's - to keep nicotine products out of the hands of young people. Underage use of JUUL and any other vaping products is completely unacceptable to us and is directly opposed to our mission of eliminating cigarettes by offering existing adult smokers a true alternative to combustible cigarettes. We stand committed to working with those who want to keep nicotine products out of the hands of young people."
Stein said there is a similar investigation taking place in Massachusetts, and the two offices have been in contact.
The video in the media player above is from a previous story.