Federal prosecutors in California have opened up a criminal investigation into nicotine vaporizer product maker Juul, in the wake of an “epidemic” of vaping-related illness across the country.
As CNBC reports, authorities from the U.S. attorney’s office of the Northern District of California are in the early stages of the probe, according to sources familiar with the investigation. It’s not clear as of this writing what the investigators are specifically hoping to find.
Juul is, by far, the largest manufacturer of vaping products — electronic machines that heat an oil containing nicotine into a vapor, which the user then inhales in order to get their product. The company has been accused of marketing its products — however obliquely — to teenagers and children. For example, some of its products resemble everyday items — such as USB drives — that can be easily hidden or passed off as something other than what they are by a teenager who doesn’t want to get caught using it.
Juul is, of course, not the only manufacturer of vaping products. Indeed, the vaping industry in general has been accused of marketing its products to teens and children, in part by offering flavored nicotine cartridges, with flavors such as strawberry, watermelon and mint.
In fact, in August, it was reported that the Federal Trade Commission was looking into whether or not Juul was illegally targeting its products to minors.
The move comes as the entire country is in the grips of an “epidemic” of people getting sick with severe lung ailments after having “vaped.” As previously reported by The Inquisitr, at the beginning of August, teenagers and other young people around the eastern edge of the Indiana-Wisconsin border began turning up in emergency rooms with severe breathing problems. Some even required breathing support in the intensive care unit.
Since those initial reports of only a dozen or so youths getting sick, several hundred people have come down with lung ailments after vaping, and a number have died.
To be fair, not all of the illnesses have been tied to vaping Juul products, or indeed, to vaping nicotine at all. At least some of the illnesses have been tied to vaping tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which, like nicotine, can be vaped in an oil form, and can also be sold in the form of pre-filled cartridges of oil just like nicotine. At least one of the vaping-related deaths has been tied to vaping THC, while the rest are tied to vaping either nicotine or THC.