Two weeks ago, Montana joined 35 other states in an investigation of JUUL Labs, an e-cigarette manufacturer that accounts for 60-70% of the market share for electronic vaping products. JUUL is currently under fire for targeting their highly addictive products towards young people through the use of allegedly deceptive marketing and misleading claims.

On March 9, the Associated Press reported that JUUL Labs had donated tens of thousands of campaign dollars to state attorneys general in an effort to temper nationwide legal action against the company. However, as 39 states have now joined the investigation into JUUL Labs, the company’s deflection tactic may be backfiring.

Attorney General Tim Fox spoke to KGVO about the ongoing JUUL investigation in Montana.

Fox says that Montana’s Office of Consumer Protection is engaged in the investigation, along with a group of bipartisan state attorneys general. The group is attempting to determine whether JUUL Labs violated law by targeting youth with strategic advertising and high levels of nicotine in their products.

Some lawmakers blame JUUL for accelerating a teen vaping epidemic. According to Fox, youth vaping nationwide is six times more prevalent than adults, and in Montana, 42% of high school seniors report using a vape product.

Though Fox acknowledges that vape products can be an effective tool for quitting smoking, he says that a big problem arises when young non-smokers begin to use vape products.

Fox also dispelled a rumor that he had accepted campaign donations from JUUL Labs in 2018.

“There was a reporter who reported a story that JUUL had given me campaign money, and I thought, ‘well, I’m not even running for anything.’ This was back in 2018. As we dug down deep into it, JUUL had apparently sent a check to my old campaign post office box, in a year where I wasn’t running for anything,” Fox says.

“That check was returned, but they still reported it as a donation on their federal filings. We were able to tell the investigators that no, in fact, I have not received any money from JUUL.”

Fox also mentions that swaying political officials with campaign donations is difficult to do in Montana because of stringent laws that limit donations to elected officials.

The multi-state investigation comes after a 2019 crackdown by the Food and Drug Administration, which alleged that JUUL Labs had engaged in unauthorized marketing and significantly downplayed the risks of using nicotine products.