Originally on WRAL

October 23, 2019

North Carolina is the first state in the country to file lawsuits against e-cigarette companies.

The companies facing lawsuits are accused of marketing their products to people under the age of 18, according to Hoyt Tessener, an attorney with James Scott Farrin.

Jensen Abhau, a freshman at Wake Technical Community College, sports an anti-vaping message on his hoodieHe turned it into a social media movement in June when he was a high school senior.

Now, almost five months later, even more is known about the health risks from vaping, and at least one death in North Carolina has been attributed to e-cigarette use.

State Attorney General Josh Stein filed lawsuits against Juul and eight other e-cigarette companies based on illegally marketing their products to underage youth.

Tessener said the companies reach youth primarily through social media platforms and appealing vape f

"If you're having bubble gum, cotton candy, chocolate and rainbow flavors, then these companies are after minors," said Tessener.

Abhau agrees it's a smart marketing strategy.

"Because the biggest demographic on Instagram -- and Snapchat -- are teens my age," Abhau said. "They don't even need to market them for people our age. The kids are already marketing it to other kids."

Stein's suit also states that companies like Juul "used lax age verification techniques for online purchases."

Another concern is not knowing exactly how much nicotine or other chemicals are in the products.

"All of that is supposedly trade secrets and proprietary," Tessener said.

According to Abhau, teens aren't interested in the risks as much as they are in social acceptance.

"Go do what teenagers do -- I mean, you can still do stupid stuff -- just don't do stupid stuff that can hurt you," he said.