Federal prosecutors in northern California are conducting a criminal probe into e-cigarette maker Juul Labs Inc., escalating law-enforcement scrutiny of the startup, reports the Wall Street Journal. Blamed for a rise in vaping among teenagers, the fast-growing company is under increasing scrutiny by state and federal officials. The Federal Trade Commission, the Food and Drug Administration and several state attorneys general are investigating its marketing practices. The Trump administration said this month that it planned to ban most flavored e-cigarettes. The San Francisco-based Juul has said it never marketed to teens and that its products are intended for adult cigarette smokers who want to switch.
The FTC’s probe is focused on whether Juul used social-media influencers and other marketing techniques to appeal to minors. While cigarette smoking has dropped among teens, nearly 28 perecent of high school students this year said they had used an e-cigarette at least once in the past 30 days, up from 21 percent a year earlier, according to a recent federal survey. Juul dominates the U.S. e-cigarette market and has become one of the most valuable U.S. startups.