Attorneys general target most popular teen vaping manufacturer, JUUL Labs

    Photo of the mouth of a man blowing out vaping smoke with his e-cigarette
    Vaping photo by Lindsay Fox at via Flickr CC BY 2.0

    Attorney General Josh Kaul has set his sights on JUUL Labs, joining a bipartisan coalition of 39 states investigating the e-cigarette manufacturer. 

    The AGs will investigate the company’s marketing and sales practices, including whether it targets youth. They will look at whether JUUL has made misleading claims about the nicotine content, risks or safety of its products. In addition, they will weigh its effectiveness as a smoking-cessation device.

    “E-cigarette use has increased dramatically among young people in Wisconsin and nationally, and we must act to reduce it,” said Kaul, explaining his reason for joining the lawsuit. “JUUL has been the driving force behind this increase.”

    Cigarette smoking has dropped notably among youth, while vaping continues to skyrocket. Kaul cites a Youth Tobacco Survey which found that between 2014 and 2018, the number of high schoolers smoking dropped from 10.7% to 4.7%. In those same years, vaping among high-school students had gone up from 8% to 20%. 

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had similar findings: In 2018, 20.8% of high schoolers were vaping. The 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey found more than 5 million youth —  in both middle and high school — had vaped in the past month and 1 million were regularly vaping. 

    That’s one out of every five high schoolers who are vaping. 

    While cigarette smoking is at an all-time low among high school students, increases in e-cigarette use have reversed progress made in the decline of overall youth tobacco use,” reads the FDA report.

    The FDA found that JUUL is the most popular brand of e-cigarettes, used by roughly 60% of middle and high school aged children who vape. JUUL has suspended its sale of mango, fruit, cucumber and creme flavored JUULpods “in response to a reported increase in youth use of vapor products,” according to its website.

    Then-FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, rebutted the notion it was a substitute for other tobacco:  “The bottom line is that kids using e-cigarettes aren’t kids who would have smoked cigarettes. Quite the opposite. As a society, we’ve made great strides in stigmatizing cigarette use among kids. The kids using e-cigarettes are children who rejected conventional cigarettes, but don’t see the same stigma associated with the use of e-cigarettes … I will not allow a generation of children to become addicted to nicotine through e-cigarettes.”

    Melanie Conklin
    Melanie Conklin is proud to be a native of the state of Wisconsin, which gave humankind the typewriter, progressivism and deep-fried cheese curds. Her several decades in journalism include political beats and columns at Isthmus newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal and other publications. When not an ink-stained wretch, she served time inside state, local and federal government in communications. She is excited to be back at the craft of journalism as Deputy Editor of the Wisconsin Examiner. It’s what she’s loved ever since getting her master’s degree in journalism from the UW-Madison. Her family includes one husband, two kids, four dogs and five (or more) chinchillas.