The e-cigarette company Juul has become a signature issue in the office of Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. Last July, she launched an investigation into how the vaping company markets its nicotine delivery products to minors with flavors like cotton candy and creme brulee. She was following in the footsteps of her predecessor, Martha Coakley, who, five years earlier as attorney general, had joined with other attorneys general to press the FDA to ban e-cigarette sales to minors and ban ads that were targeting kids.

So, it came as a surprise when news broke Tuesday that Coakley is now on Juul's payroll. Within hours, Healey was the keynote speaker at a gathering of parents and administrators in Newton where the two high schools have, like many schools, been dealing with the issue of vaping catching on with underage students. Newton North High School PTSO co-president Sally Brickell spoke with WGBH All Things Considered anchor Barbara Howard about Tuesday night’s meeting. This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Barbara Howard: So were the parents there aware of the former Attorney General Coakley going to work for Juul?

Sally Brickell: It did not come up at the forum, but I have heard talk about it.

Howard: So what did Healey have to say at the meeting?

Brickell: Well one thing she mentioned which really stuck in my mind was that until recently, when she was coming to schools, she was talking about the opioid epidemic. And now, she's getting a lot more requests to talk about vaping. She also said that she was speaking with the superintendent recently at another school and the superintendent said that the kids at his school have taken to calling the bathrooms 'Juul lounges.' She also mentioned that when she was speaking with a group of middle schoolers, she asked them how many people knew another student or a friend who is vaping, and all of the hands in the room went up.

Howard: Well, just after the meeting, Healey did tweet about those middle school students, writing on Twitter, “The students went on to say they had friends who could not stop vaping if they wanted to.” And in the tweet she continued, “In other words their friends were addicted to nicotine.”

So this seems to be a theme that she's pushing forward.

Brickell: Right, and we're hearing that it is highly addictive.

Howard: Well, for those who don't know, what does a Juul look like?

Brickell: The Juuls themselves are almost like little iPods or little technical devices. Sometimes teachers have mistaken them for flash drives. And one of the points that came out last night, a parent was joking that his teenager said to him, 'Look, kids don't use flash drives. So if you see something like that, it's one of these devices.'

Howard: How widespread is the use in Newton?

Brickell: I'm hearing about it at both high schools and it's talked about at the middle schools as an issue. I know that the Centers for Disease Control indicates that the use from last year to this year has doubled from about 11 percent of teens using last year to about 22 to 24 percent using this year.

Howard: What are you hearing from teachers in the Newton schools? Any anecdotal things about kids rushing off to the bathroom to use their Juul?

Brickell: We are hearing about it, that it is disrupting — between thinking that it's a flash drive and finding out kids have plugged in these, you know, Juuls that they're recharging. There were four fire drills at [Newton] North this year that were from smoke alarms going off from the vapor. And we've heard that kids can kind of wrap it in their sleeve and, you know, all kinds of ways to disguise it.

Howard: What are you hearing from parents?

Brickell: One parent who is an engineer told me that he discovered his ninth grader was vaping so he took matters into his own hands. His goal was to wean his child off of the device, obviously, so he created a spreadsheet. And he's been following this, lowering the dose, and he's about to wean his student off. But, he said that in fact one day, when the student forgot to take the device to school, which he's been doing surreptitiously, his student started calling and texting very, very upset and wanted the parents to come to school with it because the cravings are so powerful.

Howard: Wow. So you've been involved in the schools a long time. How aware are parents of this problem?

Brickell: Even into this year, we had a session this fall in 2018. The PTSO ran a program on vaping. There were only about 20 parents there out of, you know, thousands.

Howard: When was that?

Brickell: In October.

Howard: And now this week, what was the interest?

Brickell: There were about 300 people there at the session last night.

Howard: Sally Brickell is co-president of the Newton North PTSO, talking about the challenges schools and families like those in Newton are facing with the rise of kids taking up vaping.

And there is news breaking right now related to this story. The federal Food and Drug Administration says in a statement that it is investigating whether nicotine vaping devices like JUULs may trigger seizures in some people who use them. This comes after reviewing dozens of reports of seizures among mostly young people using e-cigarettes. This is WGBH's All Things Considered.

Read more about what the Newton North PTSO is doing about vaping in schoolshere.