In February 2018, vaping and e-cigarette giant Juul canceled an order that was to be shipped to Milton because of an issue that came up in verifying that the recipient was at least 21 years old, the minimum age to buy tobacco products in the town.

Then "Don" from the Juul Care Team reached out to the buyer from the email account with a tip: just have the purchase shipped to neighboring Quincy, where the minimum age to buy was then 18 years old.

"The legal age to purchase nicotine products in Milton, MA is 21 years old and above. If you have friends or relatives in Quincy, MA, you may use their address as a shipping address for your order," the Juul employee instructed the buyer.

The exchange was one of the dozens of examples that Attorney General Maura Healey said showed that Juul illegally marketed, advertised and sold nicotine products to underage youth in Massachusetts, "creating a youth vaping epidemic." Healey announced that her office is suing the San Francisco-based Juul -- "the company that started it all" -- seeking restitution to consumers and "reimbursement to the Commonwealth for expenses incurred abating the nuisance of youth nicotine addiction."

Juul has previously denied that it has ever marketed to young people and said no one underage should use their nicotine vaping products.

"While we have not yet reviewed the complaint, we remain focused on resetting the vapor category in the U.S. and earning the trust of society by working cooperatively with attorneys general, regulators, public health officials, and other stakeholders to combat underage use and transition adult smokers from combustible cigarettes," Juul spokesman Austin Finan said. "Our customer base is the world's 1 billion adult smokers and we do not intend to attract underage users."

Healey, who launched an investigation into Juul in July 2018, said she is not the first state attorney general to sue Juul, but that her suit is the first to lay bare the marketing strategy the company relied upon when it launched its popular e-cigarette product in 2015.

"This is the first real window into Juul's original marketing plan, and what it did to target our kids -- target our kids. That's what we're talking about," Healey said at a press conference Wednesday. "Juul's own documents show that the company intentionally chose fashionable models and images that appeal to young people for its ads. They tried to recruit celebrities and social media influencers like Miley Cyrus and Kristen Stewart to promote its products. It purchased ad space and websites for kids, such as Nickelodeon, Seventeen and Cartoon Network. It's sold and shipped e-cigarettes to underage kids in Massachusetts through its website. And it worked."

Just over half of all Massachusetts high school students report having tried e-cigarettes and one-third of high school students have used an e-cigarette product in the last month, Healey said. Meanwhile, she said, Juul has reported annual revenues of roughly $3.3 billion.

The attorney general said that her office's investigation -- which included lawyers flying around the country to take depositions, she said -- uncovered evidence that undercuts Juul's claim that its products are intended to be used by adults who want to quit smoking traditional cigarettes.

In 2015, when Juul (then Pax Labs) was bringing its e-cigarette to market, Healey said the company considered running an advertising campaign targetting adult smokers that would have presented Juul devices "as a technology innovation for an older crowd" but opted against using that campaign.

"It instead rejected it and chose an alternative campaign that would appeal to a cool, younger audience -- people who are young, urban, fashionable. Just look at some of these photos here today. Look at the people who are using these products. See, this isn't about getting adults to stop smoking cigarettes, it's about getting young people to start vaping," Healey said, pointing to photos uncovered during her office's investigation. "New internal documents we uncovered also show that Juul employees and board members were wary, understandably so, that their models looked too young. But Juul used them anyways -- on millions of websites, mobile apps, social media, in print magazines and newspapers, and on a billboard in Times Square. It plastered the internet."

Matthew Myers, president of the national Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said he would encourage everyone to actually read the full complaint Healey's office filed "because if you were angry at Juul before you walked in, your blood will boil when you realize the conscious decisions [this company] made that can't be justified by anybody with any ethical standard."

"What is remarkable is the extent to which a single company, drove this train and the extent to which the decisions of that company were knowing, conscious and intentional with disregard for the health and safety of our kids," he said.

Juul also collected the email addresses of people who visited the company website but did not make a purchase because they either "failed Juul's age verification process or did not complete Juul's age verification process," the suit alleges. Even after an outside company told Juul that 83 percent of the email addresses on its marketing list could not be traced back to a person at least 18 years old, Juul "continued to send marketing emails to this list for a full year," the suit claims.

Healey said her office's investigation went beyond Juul's marketing practices and found that the company "illegally sold e-cigarettes to underage consumers through its website without proper age verification" and "sold e-cigarettes to consumers who supplied dates of birth that established they were younger than the minimum legal sales age and made more than 10,000 shipments of e-cigarettes to recipients and addresses in Massachusetts that JUUL made no attempt to age verify."

Healey was joined Wednesday by Sen. John Keenan and Rep. Danielle Gregoire, the chief sponsors of the state's new law banning the sale of any flavored vape products, a pediatrician, a college-aged Juul user who has struggled to kick the habit, and a handful of student-aged activists. The Massachusetts Medical Society came out in support of the attorney general's action Wednesday afternoon.

"As physicians, we find the dangerous and dishonest tactics, ripped from the Big Tobacco playbook, that were used to introduce these deadly and addictive products to children have not only injured the health of our children but will continue to injure the health of our patients and communities for years to come," Dr. Maryanne Bombaugh, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, said. "Companies that deploy deceptive marketing approaches have sabotaged the previous successful progress made toward making this generation of children nicotine-free, and have instead fueled a public health crisis of nicotine addiction."

Healey said Wednesday that her office knows how it should approach this lawsuit against Juul because it was going to follow a similar playbook as the one used to hold traditional tobacco companies accountable in the 1990s -- a multi-state effort that resulted in the 1998 master settlement agreement between 51 states and territories and tobacco companies. But she said it is too early to discuss the possibility of a settlement or banding together with other states in suing Juul.

"Well, we're not talking settlement. We just sued," Healey said. She added, "Damages? Look, how can you put a price on the pain and suffering of families, on students, and just all the consequences that have flowed from this?"