North Carolina has filed lawsuits against eight e-cigarette companies, accusing the businesses of marketing to children.
Attorney General Josh Stein announced Tuesday that he’s filing eight complaints that allege these companies violate the North Carolina Unfair or Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
The e-cigarette companies receiving complaints are Beard Vape, Direct eLiquid, Electric Lotus, Electric Tobacconist, Eonsmoke, Juice Man, Tinted Brew and VapeCo.
“At the same time as our kids are headed off to school, we are hearing new stories about the health risks associated with e-cigarettes on a daily basis,” Stein said in a statement. “Our complaints allege that these eight e-cig companies are helping to fuel an epidemic of vaping among high school and middle school students.”
Stein said that the companies he’s suing “aggressively” targeted youth and didn’t require age verification when selling their products.
“One look at their marketing materials demonstrates just how egregious their sales tactics are ― with flavors like cotton candy, gummy bear, unicorn, and graham cracker, they’re clearly targeting young people,” Stein said in his statement. “To teenagers, the health and addiction risks of vaping are simply too high.”
The complaints come after North Carolina filed a similar lawsuit in May against Juul, becoming the first state to legally challenge the industry giant. In his suit against Juul Labs Inc., Stein alleged that the company designed, marketed and sold its e-cigarettes in a way that attracted people who are younger than the legal tobacco purchasing age.
Juul responded to North Carolina’s lawsuit by saying the company shares Stein’s “concerns about youth vaping” and has been taking action to combat children’s usage. The e-cigarette company has said that its target audience is adults trying to switch from traditional cigarettes and that flavoring its products helps make it easier for smokers to do so.
E-cigarettes are the most common method of tobacco usage among minors in the United States. More than 2 million high school and middle school students vaped in 2017, according to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More specifically, e-cigarette use in North Carolina has increased within the past year by 78% among high school students and 48% among middle school students, according to a study by the state’s Department of Health and Human Services.
The eight complaints came just days after Illinois health officials announced the death of an adult who vaped and eventually developed a severe respiratory illness. That case appears to be the first such reported death that doctors believe to be linked to e-cigarettes.
The Food and Drug Administration considered banning the sale of fruit- and candy-flavored e-cigarettes in places like gas stations and convenience stores last year. But after Juul suspended the sales of most of its flavored pods in retail stores, the FDA no longer implemented the ban.