The Phoenix Flyer

Attorney General to investigate vaping sales and marketing at some FL companies

By: - October 16, 2019 4:56 pm

Credit: Vaping360 via Wikimedia Commons

Citing an “epidemic” of vaping among Florida’s youth, state Attorney General Ashley Moody announced Wednesday she will investigate the marketing and sales of e-cigarettes at more than 20 companies operating in Florida.

Moody said an April study by the Florida Department of Health’s Tobacco-Free Florida Bureau found a 58 percent increase in vaping among high school students from 2017 to 2018 and reported that nearly one in four students now use e-cigarettes. Moody said she visited areas around Florida this summer to see for herself.

“As a mother, I cannot sit on the sidelines while underage vaping skyrockets and our next generation becomes addicted to nicotine. It’s illegal under Florida law to sell these products to anyone under 18, yet vaping among our youth is out of control,” Moody said in announcing the probe.

She said the investigation will assess whether the companies are targeting minors in their marketing, failing to prevent the sale of vaping products to minors, claiming without authority that vaping products can help cigarette smokers quit smoking, misleading consumers about safety and health impacts of e-cigarettes, or otherwise engaging in practices that violate Florida’s consumer protection laws.

Juul, one of the giants of the vaping industry, claims that companies such as his are taking responsible action to prevent young people from becoming addicted to nicotine through e-cigarettes.

Kevin Burns, chief executive of Juul Labs, wrote in the Washington Post in March that his company and others take seriously concerns raised by then-Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

“They are right … that companies such as ours must step up with meaningful measures to limit access and appeal of vapor products to young people,” Burns wrote, adding, “We responded.”

Gottlieb and Azar pointed to the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey finding that vaping increased nearly 80 percent among high school-age teens since the year before. The survey estimated that 3.6 million young people in the United States are vaping, including a growing number of middle school-age children. The survey said vaping use has not significantly reduced tobacco use.

Nicotine is especially addictive for teens, the FDA says, because their brains are still developing.

The FDA has hammered retailers with warning letters for selling Juul products to minors.

“After consulting with the FDA, we stopped the sale of flavored Juul pods to traditional retail stores, enhanced our online age-verification process, strengthened our retailer compliance, and exited our Facebook and Instagram accounts. We continue to work to remove inappropriate social media content generated by others on these platforms. And we will do more, including employing new ways to limit youth access and, ultimately, reduce the use of tobacco by teenagers,” Burns wrote in the Post. He expressed support for “Tobacco 21” legislation setting the minimum age for purchasing at 21.

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Laura Cassels
Laura Cassels

Laura Cassels is a reporter, former statehouse bureau chief, and former city editor. She is a classical pianist, a Florida State University graduate and proud alum of the Florida Flambeau, an independent college newspaper. Contact her at [email protected]