A young man smokes an electronic cigarette in this picture illustration taken on Sept. 14, 2018. (Mike Blake/Illustration/Reuters)
After allegedly failing to comply with state and federal law despite multiple warnings, two California-based online retailers of e-cigarettes now face lawsuits filed recently in United States District courts for possible illegal online sales to minors.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced
the lawsuits Dec. 14 against Ejuice Steals and E-juice Vapor, Inc., alleging the online retailers have continued to sell flavored tobacco products, which target youth, despite a statewide ban for such last year under a ballot initiative approved by voters in 2022.
“As the People’s Attorney, I won’t stand by as online retailers of e-cigarettes continue to steer our young people toward e-cigarettes and tobacco use that harms their health,” said Mr. Bonta in a press release.
He said the legal action mirrors a previous win against electronic cigarette company JUUL, which agreed to a settlement in the case which said it had violated state laws regarding marketing such products to youth, among other concerns, and paid $462 million in a multistate lawsuit of which California received $175.8 million, according to Mr. Bonta.
“We’ve seen this playbook before with JUUL, and we fought back relentlessly to protect our children. We are sending a clear message with today’s lawsuits: We will take every legal action against anyone that uses unlawful practices to lure our kids into harmful addiction for their own profit. Ejuice Steals, E-juice Vapor, Inc., and any other company that fuels this public health crisis will be held accountable,” he said in the announcement.
Under the terms of the JUUL settlement, the e-cigarette retailer is prohibited from using marketing materials that target youth. The state’s share of the settlement is to be used to fund research, and for education and enforcement efforts against addictive nicotine products.
According to recent data
from the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a recent study showed 10 percent of middle and high school students in the U.S. said they use a tobacco product.
For the last 10 years, e-cigarettes have been the most popular tobacco product among youth, according to the agencies.
According to Mr. Bonta’s lawsuit, his office received two separate public complaints in 2019 against E-juice Vapor, alleging the online retailer was selling tobacco products online without age verification. According to Mr. Bonta, his office issued a warning to the online outlet in March 2020.
Juul e-cigarettes are seen on the counter of a vape store in Santa Monica, California, on June 23, 2022. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)
The state of Washington filed suit against the company in 2020 over similar concerns and was awarded $375,000 in a June 2021 settlement.
A similar series of events occurred for the other online store in question, Ejuice Steals, which was allegedly selling the adult products without verifying age as well as advertising flavors with pictures of food—against FDA regulations—and selling non-FDA authorized products, according to the lawsuit filed by Mr. Bonta.
Both companies face civil penalties, reimbursement of expert and attorney fees for the cost of the state’s investigation, and possible judgments preventing them from selling flavored products to California residents, or online sales without age verification.