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Suing Juul will help smoke out the truth

For decades, tobacco companies insisted their product was not hazardous to health. When scientific proof countered that, they maintained their advertising strategies were not calculated to get as many new smokers hooked on nicotine as possible.

We know now that all of those protestations were, well, smoke and mirrors.

It is appropriate, then, to find out the truth about e-cigarettes and how they are marketed.

Scientists already are discovering that “vaping” carries with it serious health risks. Some public health officials add, however, that e-cigarettes may be a path smokers can use to wean themselves off nicotine.

What of teenagers who were never addicted to nicotine until they tried e-cigarettes, however?

On Monday, California officials filed a lawsuit against Juul Labs, by far the biggest producer of e-cigarettes and the nicotine-laden cartridges used in them. The state’s attorney general is alleging the Juul Labs has intentionally marketed flavored products to attract teenagers.

New York state followed suit Tuesday. A similar lawsuit was filed earlier this year by North Carolina officials.

A Juul spokesman told The Associated Press that the company does “not intend to attract underage users.” The firm has stopped selling most of its flavored cartridges in the U.S.; only menthol and tobacco flavors are being marketed now.

However, Juul leaves all those self-restrictions behind as it expands to other countries, such as China and the Philippines, according to reports from the Wall Street Journal and NPR. In Manila, for instance, NPR reported that Juul still sells flavors such as mango, with big marketing displays right at the front of convenience stores.

Meanwhile, back in the States, a variety of other companies continue to advertise and sell flavored e-cigarette cartridges. “Very cherry,” “chocolate indulgence” and “passion fruit” are among the varieties still readily available.

Suggestions that government should ban sale of flavored e-cigarette cartridges have been shelved in most places. This week President Donald Trump backed away from a federal ban he had proposed.

Finding out more about both e-cigarettes and producers’ marketing strategies — and goals — is important. Clearly, the only way that will happen is through trials in lawsuits such as those filed by New York, California and North Carolina officials. The sooner that can happen, the better.

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