SARASOTA, Fla. (FOX 13) - As the number of kids and teens who use e-cigarettes rises, experts are looking at the reasons behind the statistics.
An estimated 4.8 million teens used them last year - which is an 80% increase. A new lawsuit says one company's advertising was targeting kids, contributing to the popularity of vaping among young people.
When you look at the ads for Juul, P.J. Brooks says it's clear the company was trying to attract a young audience.
"They're colorful [and] flashy. Just the fact that it's all these different flavors," said Brooks.
Brooks is the vice president of outpatient and youth services for First Step of Sarasota, Inc. He's noticed an uptick in teens going for the product.
"There is no burnt smell, you can dissipate the vapor in your sleeve or some other way so you can hide it," he said.
They're small and resemble a USB drive or highlighter and parents often overlook them, but some say they can come with big consequences for users.
"They're putting much higher levels of concentrations of nicotine in their systems," said Brooks.
Sarasota parents Erin and Jared NesSmith filed a class action lawsuit against JUUL, Altria, and Philip Morris USA. The suit claims the companies violated federal laws and use marketing to attract teens.
"The kids are starting these things without recognizing at all what they’re getting into," said Scott Schlesinger with Schlesinger Law Offices, P.A.
The lawsuit said the NesSmith's daughter started "juuling" at 14 years old and is now addicted. It also claims she began experiencing seizures, a complication of nicotine ingestion.
"A youngster 14,15 years old, dosen’t have the maturity to make a decision on what they are going to try will hook them for life," said their attorney Schlesinger.
In a statement to FOX 13, JUUL said:
"JUUL Labs is committed to eliminating combustible cigarettes, the number one cause of preventable death in the world. Our product is intended to be a viable alternative for current adult smokers only. We do not want non-nicotine users, especially youth, to ever try our product. To this end, we have launched an aggressive action plan to combat underage use as it is antithetical to our mission. To the extent these cases allege otherwise, they are without merit and we will defend our mission throughout this process."
Meanwhile, Sarasota County schools are noticing more students with e-cigs and vaping devices; 327 times this year.