LOS ANGELES – Only days after filing two lawsuits against electronic cigarette companies, City Attorney Mike Feuer today announced that in one case, his office has secured NEwhere Inc. and VapeCo Distribution LLC’s agreement to bring their websites into compliance with California’s age verification requirements pending trial. Proper age verification procedures make it much more difficult for minors to purchase vaping products online. The defendant in the second case, Kandypens, Inc., quickly removed e-liquids from its website after the City Attorney sued; Kandypens may have stopped selling e-liquids altogether.
"Vaping is dangerous and potentially addictive for kids. So vaping products should be off-limits to minors, period," said Feuer. "I'm pleased that just days after we filed our lawsuits, the defendants in one case agreed to age verifications requirements (pending trial) that will help prevent kids from purchasing tobacco products on their website. And the mere filing of the second suit already has led that defendant to take all e-liquids off its website, so no child can gain access to those products online."
"We'll continue to aggressively litigate these cases, seeking, among other things, permanent injunctions requiring compliance with California's age verification laws and prohibiting defendants from targeting youth in their marketing, along with appropriate statutory penalties."
Los Angeles based VapeCo and its parent company NEwhere Inc. own and control at least three vaping retail websites including www.newhere.com, www.madhatterjuice.com, and www.vapeco.com, each offering e-liquids and related vaping devices.
VapeCo and NEwhere allegedly use popular social media platforms, including Instagram, to glamorize youth vaping through the use of young models, sexualized content, cartoon characters and smoking tricks. Plus the flavored products have packaging designed to resemble food products that directly appeal to children, including fruit flavored cereal, donuts, cookies, popcorn and candy.
The lawsuit also alleges the company failed to take necessary legal steps to ensure minors do not purchase vaping products on their websites. On multiple occasions, the City Attorney’s Office was able to purchase various e-cigarette products from the defendants’ websites while posing as teen customers using fake email accounts and a prepaid gift card. At no point did the companies request a valid form of government identification, or otherwise verify the age of the customer, as required by California law.
A second lawsuit was also filed against Kandypens Inc., a California-based company that manufactures and sells via its website (Kandypens.com) a variety of vaping products including e-cigarette devices with reusable cartridges as well as nicotine salt e-liquids containing extremely high concentrations of nicotine. The lawsuit alleges similar unfair business practices including selling tobacco products online without proper age verification, encouraging underage vaping through youth-targeted marketing, selling tobacco products without FDA premarket approval, failing to provide all required health warnings, and failing to properly label products for nicotine levels. Within days after the lawsuit was filed, Kandypens removed all e-liquid products from its website and appears to have stopped selling e-liquids altogether.
The lawsuits seek injunctions prohibiting each of the companies from selling vaping products over the internet without the use of appropriate age verification procedures, selling new tobacco products without FDA approval, failing to use child resistant packaging, and targeting youth in their marketing activities.
Assistant City Attorney Michael Bostrom and Deputy City Attorneys Ben Delfin and Connie Chan are handling the lawsuits.