RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia's Attorney General Mark Herring announced Tuesday that he has joined a bipartisan, multi-state investigation of JUUL Labs.
The 39-state coalition is investigating the e-cigarette's marketing and sales practices, including the targeting of youth, claims regarding nicotine content, and statements regarding the risks, safety, and efficacy as a smoking cessation device.
"The number of young people in Virginia and across the country who are vaping or using e-cigarettes is truly a public health crisis," Herring said. "Nicotine can have seriously negative effects on the developing brain, which is why it is so important that we keep all tobacco-based products out of the hands of young people. This investigation is just one of the many approaches we must take as a society to stop this growing youth vaping epidemic."
While traditional cigarette use has plummeted among youth, vaping and e-cigarette usage is skyrocketing, undermining national progress towards reducing youth tobacco usage.
According to the Virginia Department of Health, in 2017 teen cigarette use in Virginia was at an all-time low at 6.5 percent, but at least 11.8 percent of teens said that they currently vaped or used e-cigarettes, and that number continues to rise.
Additionally, teens who vape or use e-cigarettes are six times more likely to begin smoking traditional cigarettes. The National Youth Tobacco Survey conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control in 2019 found more than 5 million youth reported having used e-cigarettes or vaping within the past 30 days, up from 3.6 million just one year prior.
While Virginia joins the ranks of investigating e-cigarette usage in teens, Maryland announced recently that the state is the first in the nation to prohibit sales of e-cigarettes.
On Feb. 10, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot announced that his Field Enforcement Division is taking a first-in-the-nation approach to prohibiting the sale of certain e-cigarettes marketed toward kids.
"In addition to the FDA's prohibition of flavored e-cigarette cartridges, I have directed our enforcement agents to take more aggressive action by prohibiting the sale of disposable ESDs with flavors other than tobacco or menthol," Franchot said. "As the state's tobacco regulator, it’s my legal and moral responsibility to protect consumers, especially children, from the hazardous substances contained in these unauthorized products."
Last October, Franchot created the "e-facts Task Force on Electronic Smoking Devices" to learn more about the industry and see what action should be taken.
Franchot said the task force has met three times and held its final session on Feb. 17 to discuss recommendations.