Minami Tamaki’s Consumer and Employee Rights Group is investigating claims that e-cigarette manufacturers and retailers are illegally marketing vaping products to minors.
On July 24, 2018, the Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced that her office had opened an investigation into e-cigarette maker Juul Labs Inc. (“Juul”) and online e-cigarette retailers that sell Juul and Juul-compatible products.
San Francisco-based Juul controls over two-third of the nearly $2 billion U.S. e-cigarette market, according to industry reports. The company is raising $1.2 billion in funding at an estimated valuation of $15 billion.
Juul vaporizers deliver flavored nicotine, derived from tobacco, through interchangeable pods. The nicotine pods are available in numerous flavors, such as mango, fruit medley, and crème brulee. Due to their sleek design, Juul devices resemble a USB flash drive and can easily be concealed by underage users. Users can personalize Juul devices with wraps or “skins,” and decorate them with an array of designs, colors, and images.
Juul has faced increased scrutiny as its products have gained popularity and high schools around the country have reported a rapid increase in their use. According to a 2016 report by the U.S. Surgeon General, e-cigarette use has increased 900 percent among U.S. high school students from 2011 to 2015. In June 2018, the city of San Francisco passed an initiative banning flavored tobacco, including Juul pods.
The Massachusetts Attorney General’s investigation will look into whether Juul and online retailers have violated consumer protection statutes and e-cigarette regulations by failing to prevent minors from purchasing their products. Attorney General Healey stating that “juuling and vaping have become an epidemic in our schools with products that seem targeted to get young people hooked on nicotine.”
E-cigarettes have been marketed as helpful in assisting individuals to cut down on smoking. However, health and anti-tobacco critics argue that their popularity is leading more young individuals to become hooked on nicotine, rather than reducing the purchase of traditional cigarettes.