Juul is under investigation as attorneys general from 39 states are looking into whether the e-cigarette maker made misleading claims related to nicotine content, as well as determining whether it targeted children. The company's vaping products are popular among teens, which is a concern given that as of Feb. 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 2,800 people have been hospitalized in the U.S. with injuries related to vaping. 

Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford is among those most upset with Juul, saying that "preying on children and those looking for help to quit smoking is the one of the most despicable examples of risking people's lives for corporate profit." Earlier this month, the Massachusetts attorney general's office filed a lawsuit against Juul alleging that the company was targeting children by buying ad space on children's websites, including The Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon.

Juul says that it has stopped advertising in print, online, and on television, as a result of the scrutiny it's received from government officials. 

Vape pen.

Image source: Getty Images.

Altria's paid a big price for its investment in Juul

Tobacco giant Altria (NYSE:MO) was banking that Juul would lead to significant growth for the company when it invested $12.8 billion in the e-cigarette maker in 2018. 

However, since then, the company has made not one but two writedowns of the investment. In October, Altria wrote off $4.5 billion, and in January it slashed another $4.1 billion off the value of its holdings in Juul. 

Altria investors have paid dearly as well, as the stock is down more than 30% in the past two years while the S&P 500 is up 20% over that time. 

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.