SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA)- Today Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister and Hillsborough superintendent Jeff Eakins met to discuss hat they called a teen vaping epidemic.

Early this summer, a Sarasota County family filed a lawsuit against e-cigarette company JUUL Labs Inc., for exploiting adolescents and getting them hooked on the aerosol devices that deliver a more powerful hit of nicotine than cigarettes.

But the family isn’t the first to file a lawsuit about the e-cigarette company.

In October of 2018, a South Florida mother filed a lawsuit because her 15-year-old son was addicted to the poduct and vaped up to 12 times a day.

The issue is impacting communities across the Tampa Bay area.

In November of last year, Juul pulled it’s flavored e-cigarette products from convenience stores and vape shops  in an effort to curb underage vaping.

Early this year Seminole High School parents gathered in the school’s aiditorium to discuss what state and federal officials have deemed as an epidemic.

“It effects their health.  It effects brain activity, and we see it marketed to younger and younger children” said Seminole High Principal, Jane Lucas.

Pinellas County Deputy Jeffrey Cuttitta suggested parents stay aware of their students’ activity.

”They need to check their rooms, check their backpacks, check their social media, check their phones,” Cuttitta said.

Not long after Marlboro cigarette maker Altria purchased a 35 percent stake in JUUL for $12.8 billion in Dec. 2018, the U.S. Surgeon General issued an advisory, in which HHS Secretary Alex Azar noted the significant rate at which teenagers are picking up the habit.

“In the data sets we use, we have never seen use of any substance by America’s young people rise as rapidly as e-cigarette use is rising,” Azar said.

According to recent data from Tobacco Free Florida, about 25 percent of Florida high school students reported current use of electronic vaping in 2018, which is a 58 percent increase from the previous year.

Only about 4 percent of adults in Florida were using e-cigarettes.

A 2018 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey showed that vaping has emerged as one of the most prevalent forms of substance use among teenagers in the Sunshine State.

The same study showed that the prevalence of vape pen and JUUL usage increased 4.1 percentage points for past-30-day use, making vape pens and JUULs the only substance use category where students reported a substantial increase over the last two years.

Take a look at the graph below to see just how prevalent vaping has become for Florida teens.

E-cigarette use

Check out the increase of E-cigarette use among Florida teens between 2016 and 2018. Hover over the bar to see the exact percentage number.

Source: Tobacco Free Florida