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FTC is reportedly investigating Juul's marketing practices

Lisa Micheal 22 Aug 29
Juul products are displayed at a smoke shop in New York, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018.

The Federal Trade Commission is investigating whether e-cigarette maker Juul used deceptive marketing and targeted minors, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, citing people familiar with the investigation. 

The FTC is considering seeking monetary damages, the Journal reported, citing one of the people. The FTC began its investigation in September 2018, the Journal reported, before tobacco giant Altria invested $12.8 billion for a 35% stake in Juul. Shares of Altria slid 2% Thursday. Juul is privately held. 

Regulators have criticized Juul for fueling a teen vaping "epidemic," scrutinizing the company's early advertising campaigns that used young models and bright colors. Critics say the images positioned Juul as a lifestyle brand and attracted young people.

Juul, which wouldn't comment on the investigation, said in a statement that it fully cooperates "and are transparent with any government agency or regulator who have interest in our category." The company said it has "never marketed to youth" and that its 2015 ad campaign, known as "Vaporized," "was intended for adults in the 25-34 year-old demographic and lasted for six months."

"If one views the sales and revenue data, there is no evidence that it drove use, youth or otherwise," the company said. "Nonetheless, we regret that the campaign was executed in a way that was perceived as appealing to minors."

The FTC declined to comment. 

The Food and Drug Administration launched its own investigation into the company's marketing practices last year, marked by a "surprise inspection" last fall of Juul's San Francisco headquarters in which investigators seized thousands of pages of documents.

A House subcommittee examined Juul's role in the teen vaping epidemic last month. Lawsuits are popping up around the country accusing Juul of deceiving kids and hooking them on nicotine.

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