An illustration shows a man exhaling smoke from an electronic cigarette in Washington, DC on October 2, 2018. - In just three years, the electronic cigarette manufacturer Juul has swallowed the American market with its vaporettes in the shape of a USB key. Its success represents a public health dilemma for health authorities in the United States and elsewhere. (Photo by EVA HAMBACH / AFP)        (Photo credit should read EVA HAMBACH/AFP/Getty Images)
Students say Juul employee told them device is 'totally safe'
02:26 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Connecticut is launching an investigation into leading e-cigarette manufacturer Juul Labs, state officials announced Wednesday.

Investigators are probing whether Juul illegally marketed itself as a “smoking cessation device” without approval from the US Food and Drug Administration, according to Connecticut Attorney General William Tong and the state’s consumer protection commissioner, Michelle H. Seagull.

In particular, the state is investigating Juul’s promotional pricing offers and “seeks information as to how and why JUUL selects its targeted marketing groups,” according to a press release.

Also under investigation is Juul’s “Enterprise Markets Team.” According to a CNBC report cited in the civil investigative demand, Juul pitched its e-cigarette to companies and insurers who want to help workers stop smoking.

“JUUL has never been approved as an effective smoking cessation device – in fact, there is mounting evidence to the contrary. Our investigation will seek to determine whether JUUL is making health claims without FDA approval in violation of the law,” said Tong.

Connecticut is demanding that Juul answer questions and turn over documents by September 3.

Company spokesman Ted Kwong said in a statement that Juul will cooperate with the investigation. “To be clear – the JUUL system is a switching product designed to help adult smokers switch from combustible cigarettes to an alternative nicotine delivery and that is how we position it in our marketing and communications,” he said.

Kwong added that Juul’s devices “are not intended to be used as cessation products, including for the cure or treatment of nicotine addiction, relapse prevention, or relief of nicotine withdrawal symptoms.”

However, according to two teens who testified under oath to Congress last week, a Juul representative repeatedly told a ninth-grade classroom that the company’s e-cigarette was “totally safe” before showing underage students the device.

The product was “a safer alternative than smoking cigarettes and it would be better for [a nicotine-addicted] kid to use that,” the Juul representative allegedly said, according to 16-year-old Phillip Fuhrman’s testimony. “He didn’t use it but he did take it out and show it to us.”

The comments came at a hearing organized by the House Oversight Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, which is investigating Juul’s role in the youth vaping epidemic.

Also testifying was public health analyst Rae O’Leary, who represented the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. She said Juul “targeted American Indians by exploiting tribal sovereignty, which will eventually negatively impact American Indian youth.”

Get CNN Health's weekly newsletter

Sign up here to get The Results Are In with Dr. Sanjay Gupta every Tuesday from the CNN Health team.

She recounted a visit by Juul representatives earlier this year in which they offered the tribal council a “switching program” and free starter kits as part of an implied harm reduction effort and public health study. The tribe was “unfairly exploited,” O’Leary said.

In addition to the congressional probe and the Connecticut investigation, Juul was sued in May by North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein over “harmful and unfair marketing practices.” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey also said last year that her office was investigating Juul, citing concerns around the marketing and sale of devices to minors.

CNN’s Clare Sebastian and Michael Nedelman contributed to this report.