North Carolina sues eight e-cigarette makers over teen use

It claims the companies are 'aggressively targeting' kids with vape gear.

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AP Photo/Ed Andrieski
AP Photo/Ed Andrieski

Officials aren't just focused on Juul in their crackdown on teen vape use. North Carolina has sued eight e-cigarette makers (Beard Vape, Direct eLiquid, Electric Lotus, Electric Tobacconist, Eonsmoke, Juice Man, Tinted Brew and VapeCo) over allegations they're "aggressively targeting" kids and don't require "appropriate" age checks when selling their products. The companies frequently use child-oriented flavors like gummy bear or "unicorn frappé," not to mention the colorful packages to match.

These e-cig makers were "helping to fuel an epidemic" of vaping among middle and high-school kids, state Attorney General Josh Stein said. He argued it was vital to close down these operations when the addiction and health risks for teens were "simply too high."

Most of the companies involved haven't commented on the legal action, although Electric Tobacconist did issue a statement challenging the lawsuit. It maintained that it has an "extensive" age verification system that depends on a third-party check, and that it has a purchase quantity limit to prevent adults from buying e-cigs on teens' behalf.

Not that this will likely dissuade North Carolina from pursuing its case. It observed that high school tobacco use jumped back to 30 percent after years of decline, and believed the lawsuits would help reverse that trend. The state certainly has federal regulators on its side. Like it or not, the companies might not have much choice but to either mend their business models if they want to survive.

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