UPDATE: IMMEDIATE RESULTS IN CITY ATTORNEY VAPING LAWSUITS
LOS ANGELES – City Attorney Mike Feuer today announced that his office is seeking injunctions against three electronic cigarette companies, NEwhere Inc., VapeCo Distribution LLC, and Kandypens Inc., alleging the illegal sale of vaping products online without proper age verification, the sale of tobacco products without federal approval and marketing that promotes youth consumption of tobacco. Copies of the lawsuits are below.
"Underage vaping is an emerging public health epidemic, and luring kids to use dangerous and addictive vaping products, as we allege here, has got to stop," said Feuer. "In fact, kids shouldn’t have access to these products at all. The lawsuits we filed today send a strong message that if you put children at risk for the sake of profit, you’ll face serious consequences."
Los Angeles based VapeCo and its parent company NEwhere Inc. own and control at least three vaping retail websites including NEwhere, Mad Hatter Juice and Vapeco, each offering e-liquids and related vaping devices. The defendants allegedly have no US Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approval for most, if not all, of the products they offer for sale.
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, smoking tricks and 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 lawsuit was also filed against Kandypens Inc., a California-based company that manufactures and sells via its website 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 and e-cigarette devices without FDA premarket approval, failing to provide all required health warnings, and failing to properly label products for nicotine levels.
Kandypens allegedly targets young consumers with social media marketing on YouTube and Instagram – the most popular platforms among teens – including through product placement in popular online music videos that glamorize vaping, active posts on its Instagram account, and paid endorsements by social media influencers. Despite readily available "age gating" options, Kandypens allegedly does not restrict access to its social media advertisements to persons 21 and over, and does not include federally mandated health warnings about the addictiveness of nicotine on any of its advertisements.
City Attorney investigators were again able to purchase e-cigarette items from the Kandypens website while posing as teen customers using a fake email account and a prepaid gift card. At no time did the company ask for a date of birth or otherwise verify the age of the customer, in direct violation of California law.
The lawsuits seek injunctions prohibiting each company 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 litigation. Review both complaints here.