SEATTLE - One in five Washington teens are vaping, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. The issue continues to be so severe that the state Attorney General Bob Ferguson is taking new legal action to try to fight it.
Ferguson on Wednesday announced a lawsuit against the e-cigarette company JUUL, claiming their advertisement meticulously targets young people.
“I came across one of the advertisements lately ... it was brought to my attention by a friend, and we were talking about it saying this is crazy that they're marketing to kids of this age and making it seem like it's really cool,” says Lindsey Krenke.
She’s one of the many local parents concerned about vaping, even though her oldest child is only 11.
“It’s definitely something I worry about with my son about to start middle school and I know just a grade or two above him parents have had issues with their kids getting ahold of vape pens.”
Another parent who also finds JUUL ads alarming is AG Ferguson.
“Bright colors, youthful models ... they utilized what they call brand ambassadors to specifically reach youth, these are individuals specifically selected because of their influence on social media,” says Ferguson about the company’s advertisement techniques.
Ferguson says JUUL puts profit before people, deliberately luring young people to use their products, who then get addicted.
“There's a reason for their success, and those reasons go to the heart of our lawsuit that we're filing today.”
Ferguson said 88% of JUUL’S Twitter followers are between 13 and 20 years old.
“A 2018 survey said that 63% of JUUL users between the ages of 15 and 24 did not know that was nicotine was in those e-cigarettes produced by JUUL and they did not actually disclose that it contained nicotine until required by the federal government,” said Ferguson.
Even vaping sales executives agree that JUUL's advertising is problematic, though they counter that the product has helped a lot of adult smokers wean off of cigarettes.
“One of the best things that happened to the vaping industry is that JUUL came out. One of the worst things that happened is the advertising,” says JD Lewis, a sales executive for the vape shop, Vaporflavors. “I don’t think that there should be any kind of advertising unless its advertisement that worked with the FDA and it’s backed by science.”
Lewis says he’d like to see AG Ferguson sit down with vaping companies and shop owners to figure out a solution together to the youth e-cig epidemic.
In response to the lawsuit, a spokesperson for JUUL sent this statement:
“We will continue to reset the vapor category in the U.S. and seek to earn the trust of society by working cooperatively with attorneys general, legislators, regulators, public health officials, and other stakeholders to combat underage use and transition adult smokers from combustible cigarettes. As part of that process, the company reduced its product portfolio, halted television, print, and digital product advertising and submitted a Premarket Tobacco Product Application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration including comprehensive scientific evidence to support the harm reduction potential of its products and data-driven measures to address underage use. We will respond to the allegations in the complaint through the appropriate legal channels.”