E-cigarette giant Juul Labs is facing mounting scrutiny from state law enforcement officials, with the attorneys general in Illinois and the District of Columbia investigating how the company's blockbusterbecame so popular with underage teens, The Associated Press has learned.
The company's rapid rise to the top of the multi-billion dollar U.S. e-cigarette market has been accompanied by accusations from parents, politicians and public health advocates that Juul fueled a. In addition to the ongoing inquiries in Illinois and Washington, D.C., which had not been publicly disclosed before, four other state attorneys general are probing or suing Juul.
The company also is being investigated by members of Congress, federal health regulators and faces separate lawsuits from Juul users — both teens and adults.
Juul's top executives have disputed allegations that they've marketed their products to teens, declaring that they've taken unprecedentedof its e-cigarettes. The company has shut down its and out of retail stores. Juul also backs federal legislation to raise the minimum age to purchase all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to 21 nationwide.
Inwith "CBS This Morning's" Tony Dokoupil this week, Juul CEO Kevin Burns said the company never intended for Juul to be used by kids.
"As a parent of a 16-year-old, 19-year-old, I don't want my kids using the product. It's not intended for them. They're not smokers or former smokers trying to use the product. We never want them to use the product. And I have empathy for them, for what they're going through, dealing with their kids trying to go through any kind of difficulties, especially an addiction to a product that has nicotine in it," Burns said.
Burns also hadfor non-smokers: "Don't vape. Don't use Juul," he said. "Don't start using nicotine if you don't have a preexisting relationship with nicotine. Don't use the product. You're not our target consumer."
Juul spokesman Ted Kwong declined to answer specific questions about the investigations in an emailed statement to the AP but reiterated past company steps to prevent youth use. Juul announced Thursday that 50 retail chains have pledged to adopt the company's age-verification system, which requires sellers to scan a customer's ID before selling Juul products.
A senior Illinois law enforcement official described to AP a wide-ranging inquiry being conducted by the office of Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul that is centered on whether Juul violated state consumer fraud laws and other statutes by designing and marketing its products to appeal to underage teens. The official was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.
Marrisa Geller, a spokeswoman for District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, confirmed in an emailed statement an investigation of Juul is underway. She said Racine is concerned about "the dramatic increase in the use of vaping products by district youth" as well as the policies and practices employed by e-cigarette manufacturers to prevent minors from using their products.