BOSTON — Attorney General Maura Healey has sued eight online e-cigarette retailers for illegally selling and delivering flavored tobacco products to consumers in Massachusetts, in violation of a new state law passed last month.
In a complaint filed in Suffolk Superior Court, AG Healey alleges the following companies violated state laws and regulations by selling flavored tobacco products to Massachusetts consumers and failing to protect against delivery of these products to minors:
“These companies are in flagrant violation of our new state law that was put in place to protect young people from the serious harms caused by vaping,” said AG Healey. “Our state has been a leader in fighting this public health crisis, and we will continue to go after companies that ignore our laws and put young people at risk.”
The AG’s Office is also seeking a preliminary injunction in court to prevent the illegal sale of these products while litigation is ongoing. A hearing on the AG’s motion for a preliminary injunction has been scheduled for January 7 in Suffolk Superior Court.
The AG’s investigation of these eight companies revealed that they advertise and sell flavored tobacco products, specifically e-cigarettes and associated products such as e-liquids, to consumers in Massachusetts, in violation of the new state law. On November 27, 2019, Massachusetts became the first state in the country to ban the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and e-liquids. AG Healey testified in support of the legislation to ban flavored tobacco products.
Flavored vaping products are popular among young people and they are a reason why many of them start and continue using nicotine vaping products. These eight companies sell flavors that appeal to young people, including “Unicorn Frappe,” “Gingerbread Dude,” “Rainbow Nuggets,” “Bubble Gum,” “Cake,” “Maui Mango” and “Sour Gummy.”
The AG’s Office also alleges that these companies do not use a method of mailing, shipping, or delivery of these tobacco products that requires the signature of a person who is of the minimum legal age before the package is released. State regulations instituted by AG Healey in 2015 require sellers to ensure shipments of these products are received by a person 21 years or older.
The AG’s Office alleges that these companies violated An Act Modernizing Tobacco Regulations, the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act, and the AG’s e-cigarette regulations. AG Healey’s complaint seeks injunctive relief preventing these companies from continuing to engage in these illegal practices and also seeks civil penalties.
Preliminary data from the 2019 Massachusetts Youth Health Survey from the spring of 2019, show that the percentage of high school students in Massachusetts who have used vape products is at an all-time high, at over 50 percent, with over 30 percent reporting that they had used vape products in the past month. Young people are exposed to e-cigarette marketing on social media at growing rates and are often unaware that these vaping products contain nicotine, a substance that can interfere with adolescent brain development, and other ingredients that are harmful to their health. The full range of health impacts of e-cigarettes is still unknown, and the public health system is struggling to develop and implement effective cessation methods to meet the needs of young people and their families.
AG Healey was the first Attorney General to announce an investigation into JUUL Labs Inc., which is ongoing, over concerns about its marketing and sale of electronic cigarettes to minors. The Office sued Eonsmoke LLC for marketing and selling products to young people with flavors like “gummy bear” and “cotton candy.” The AG’s Office also sent cease and desist demands to Direct Eliquid LLC and Kilo E-Liquids, ordering the retailers to stop selling electronic cigarettes in Massachusetts without an adequate age verification system. As a result of the lawsuit and cease and desist letters, these companies are no longer selling to Massachusetts residents. The AG’s Office continues to investigate e-cigarette companies that it suspects are violating state law.
This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Samantha Shusterman and Division Chief Max Weinstein of the AG’s Consumer Protection Division, and Investigators Ciara Tran and Edward Cherubin of the Civil Investigations Division.