North Carolina AG blames Juul for teen vaping: It's the '800 pound gorilla' of e-cig industry

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein is clamping down on what he describes as a vaping “epidemic among high schoolers and middle schoolers” across the country, filing suit against eight different e-cigarette companies.

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His office already sued Juul, the nation’s leading e-cigarette company. Vape liquid often includes nicotine.

“I sued Juul, which is the 800-pound gorilla of this industry, earlier this year,” he told FOX Business’ Dagen McDowell on Wednesday. “They're responsible for 75 to 80 percent of the teen vaping market.”

Stein is also targeting other smaller competitiors in the industy, including Beard Vape, Direct eLiquid, Electric Lotus, Electric Tobacconist, Eonsmoke, Juice Man, Tinted Brew and VapeCo.

“There are all these smaller bit players that are engaged in what I allege to be outrageous behavior,” he said.

E-cigarette use among teens and America's youth has skyrocketed recently. The number of middle and high school students using the electronic devices rose from 2.1 million in 2017 to 3.6 million in 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A new University of Texas study showed that teens who were exposed to ads for vaping and e-cigarettes were more likely to begin using the products, with 20.8 percent of high school students and 4.9 percent of middle-school students reportedly vaping.

The CDC is looking at 200 potential cases of severe lung disease that might be connected to vaping, now reported in 22 states. In response, Juul Labs CEO Kevin Burns told “CBS This Morning” that the recent cases involving the use of e-cigarettes were “worrisome.”

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E-cigarettes come in flavors like cotton candy, gummy bear and French toast, Stein said, and are designed in a way to be appealing to kids by making them look like USB ports. The companies also use “subversive hip marketing” tactics on social media outlets like Snapchat and Instagram, he said. And lastly, he also alleges that they are “wholly failing to do any age verification” or doing so in a “half-hearted fashion, all of which violated North Carolina law, I allege.”

“I want the North Carolina courts to shut these practices down so we do not lose another generation of teenagers to nicotine addiction,” Stein said.