Juul has long been blamed for contributing to a rise in teen vaping—from 2017 to 2018, the habit jumped 78%—and now the e-cigarette company is under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, according to sources who spoke to the Wall Street Journal. The FTC is reportedly attempting to determine whether Juul targeted minors in its advertising, or used deceptive marketing practices including using influencers. The sources say the agency, which has designated the probe as nonpublic, first asked Juul for information related to its marketing practices in September. Juul has altered its marketing practices since criticism first arose; by 2021, for example, the company will require retailers to scan a customer's ID to verify age before selling its products, Engadget reports.
Neither the FTC nor Altria, the tobacco giant that in December invested $12.8 billion for a 35% stake in Juul, has commented on the FTC report. But a Juul spokesperson said it never markets to youth and cooperates fully with all regulators. "Our paid influencer program, which was never formalized, was a small, short-lived pilot" that ended last year, the rep adds, saying less than $10,000 was paid to fewer than 10 adult smokers or ex-smokers, all of whom were older than 30. Juul's marketing practices are also under investigation by the FDA and several state attorneys general. News of the FTC probe comes as Juul CEO Kevin Burns defended his product as an alternative to cigarettes in a CBS interview, but said that if you've never smoked before, "Don't vape. Don't use Juul." (Nationwide, vaping is being blamed for a rise in serious respiratory illnesses.)