Local reaction after NC Attorney General sues top e-cigarette maker

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EASTERN CAROLINA, NC (WITN) The state's top law enforcement official is suing a popular electronic cigarette maker.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein filed a lawsuit against the maker of Juul in the hopes of limiting the flavors the company sells and stopping underage teens from buying it.

Researchers in the east say they've watched use of the devices skyrocket among young people.

"It altered the chemical composition of nicotine to make inhaling it smoother for young first time smokers," said Stein in a press conference Wednesday.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services says nearly 20% of high school students used e-cigarettes in 2017.

"What we're seeing is young people who wouldn't have smoked are picking up e-cigarettes because of their really good marketing," said Joseph Lee who studies tobacco control at ECU.

He says e-cigarettes vary in shape and can sometimes be confused for everything from credit cards to traditional cigarettes. Juul has caught attention for being shaped similarly to a USB drive which Lee says can make it easy to hide.

"They come in all shapes and sizes and it's hard to tell who's vaping sometimes," said Lee.

Lee believes other states' attorneys general will file similar lawsuits of their own against the maker of Juul in the future.

Juul Labs, the maker of Juul put changes in place last year it said would stop the use of the product by young people. Stein acknowledged these changes but says the company can undo them at any time.