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North Carolina has filed a lawsuit against e-cigarette maker JUUL for deceptive marketing practices and specifically targeting youth. North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein made the announcement this week, stating “As a result of JUUL’s deceptive and unfair practices, thousands of North Carolina kids are at risk of addiction to nicotine. JUUL must be stopped from spreading this disease any further and must pay for its violations of the law.”

North Carolina suing JUUL is a further sign that federal and state government agencies are largely blaming the embattled e-cigarette manufacturer for what the U.S. Attorney General Jerome Adams, calls the “epidemic” of youth vaping.

The North Carolina JUUL lawsuit claims that the company marketed its products to children, and misled the public about risks associated with those products. JUUL’s pods have higher nicotine levels than most other products on the market, and they marketed extensively on social media until the FDA put pressure on the company to stop targeting youth. Juul is the most popular e-cigarette brand among underage vapers.

Researchers at the State University of New York (SUNY) — Stony Brook University recently discovered that 40% of teens have no idea they are vaping nicotine. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “using nicotine in adolescence may also increase risk for future addiction to other drugs.”

Stein stated that North Carolina suing JUUL was the result of an investigation by his office on the company’s sales and marketing practices. In a statement Stein said, “JUUL claims its products are for adults, but its business strategy clearly targeted young people and minors.” According to Stein, JUUL’s 75% market share of e-cigarettes was built by use among middle and high school students. Approximately 17% of North Carolina high school students reported vaping in the past month.

Stein says his investigation showed two things: “One, it targeted young people. And two, it misleads the public about the potency of nicotine in its products. Stein said, “You only have to walk through any high school parking lot in North Carolina to see how pervasive JUUL is among young people in our state.

The goal of the North Carolina JUUL lawsuit is to stop the company from engaging in “harmful and unfair marketing practices, to pay civil penalties and for the disgorgement of JUUL’s ill-gotten profits.”

Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris cigarette brands including Marlboro, owns 35% of JUUL. In a 2006 federal court ruling, Altria, (in addition to R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Lorillard, and Philip Morris) were found guilty of misleading the public about the dangers of smoking

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