E-cigarette company Juul Labs is under investigation by the Massachusetts attorney general, who says that the company is targeting minors.
“Way too much of their product is ending up in the hands of young people and ending up in schools,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said during a press briefing Tuesday.
Healey said her office sent cease-and-desist letters to two companies that are currently operating three websites – directeliquid.com, buyjuul.com and eonsmoke.com – ordering the retailers to stop selling not only Juul products, but other vaping products to minors.
“Juuling and vaping have become an epidemic in our schools with products that seem targeted to get young people hooked on nicotine,” Healey said.
However, Juul Labs Chief Communications Officer Matt David fired back following the press conference debunking the claims, saying the company has “never marketed to anyone underage.”
“In fact, we have done very little marketing relative to our growth,” David wrote.
The San Francisco-based company said unlike other Silicon Valley tech startups, its growth is not the result of marketing “but rather a superior product disrupting an archaic industry.”
Juul said since its launch in 2015, it has gained 70% of the alternative cigarette/vaping market share. The company is reportedly valued at $15 billion.
What’s more, the company added that it’s committed to preventing underage use of Juul, pledging $30 million over the next three years to independent research and youth and parent education on e-cigarettes.
The big hang-up on Juul is that its nicotine cartridges, which contain as much nicotine as a pack of traditional cigarettes, comes in flavors like fruit medley and mango with colorful “skins” cases, that make them appealing to a younger demographic.
Healey’s office said it is currently investigating whether Juul has violated state law by failing to prevent minors from buying its products, and whether the company is properly monitoring retailers to ensure that they are in fact verifying that customers are older than 21, as required.
In April, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first announced a nationwide crackdown on the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. The FDA asked Juul to provide documents on how it’s marketing its products as well as research on the health effects of its products.
Earlier this week, Wired reported that Juul had been hit with at least three other lawsuits since April that accused the company of deceptive marketing that led consumers to believe its products were safe, when “in fact it contains more potent doses of nicotine than cigarettes.” The company told Wired that it does not believe the cases have merit and “it will be defending them vigorously.”