Montana Attorney General Tim Fox said on Tuesday that the State of Montana will be joining 35 other states in an investigation of the e-cigarette manufacturer, JUUL.

Deputy Attorney General Jon Bennion said the use by minors of e-cigarettes is reaching epidemic proportions, and state attorneys general are fighting back in court.

“10 or 15 years ago, no one had ever heard of vaping, however in Montana and around the rest of the country it’s reached an epidemic level,” said Bennion. “We have 60 percent of our youth who have either tried vaping and 30 percent who regularly use it, which is more than the national average. They’re using it despite the fact that it’s illegal and it’s because a lot of these companies and one in particular, has aggressively marketed to our youth. We announced our multi-state investigation into JUUL and we’re working with a bipartisan group of states to investigate their marketing and sales strategies, especially as it relates to youth to get to the bottom of whether or not they’ve violated Montana’s Consumer Protection Act.”

Bennion described what aspect of the Consumer Protection Act that JUUL has violated.

“One of the prongs of that act is something that is deceptive,” he said. “If they’re marketing a product in such a way that it conceals the health risks, the safety of that product, then that can be something that violates the act. Anytime you try to get young people to start vaping or keep vaping, that’s a violation of Montana law. We actually passed a law in 2015 by Attorney General Fox that would make the sale and possession of vaping products to minors illegal.

Bennion said the penalties for the company could be substantial.

“Any single violation of the act can be a fine of up to $10,000,” he said. “If there were multiple violations which we would anticipate then these can be large investigations’ that we take very seriously. There are 39 states in total with a bipartisan group of attorneys general. I think we’ll be able to get to the bottom of this over the next year or so. Sometimes the companies want to make things right and other times they fight the investigation, so no matter what the response, we’re going to aggressively pursue this and hold people accountable.”

Senate Bill 66 was sponsored by Sen. Diane Sands of Missoula and signed by the governor on April 28, 2015.  The law took effect on January 1, 2016.