NYC files suit against 22 online e-cigarette vendors for targeting, selling to minors

Kimberly Dole
October 09, 2019 - 7:44 pm
Vaping

Dai Sugano, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- New York City has filed a federal lawsuit against 22 online sellers of flavored e-cigarettes.

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The suit accuses the 22 of illegally selling to minors, targeting  residents under the age of 21 via social media, and luring them with flavors such as "Lemon Twist," "Freddy's Pebbles" and "Whipped Salted Caramel," Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday.

The lawsuit, was filed Tuesday in US District Court in Brooklyn, that online vendors lack age verification systems, allowing those that may be under the age of 21 to readily buy e-cigarette products even though those sales have been prohibited in the city since 2013.

"Preying on minors and hooking them on a potentially lethal, lifelong nicotine addiction is unconscionable," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. "This lawsuit sends a message: we will do whatever it takes to protect our kids and the health of our city."

The suit comes as state and local governments across the nation have taken steps to limit children's access to e-cigarettes.

A number of companies included in the city's suit have been previously cited by the FDA for illegally selling to minors.

Artisan Vapor Company, headquartered in Irving, Texas, is accused of selling flavors including Pink Punch Lemonade and Wild Watermelon Lemonade while Central Vapors of McKinney, Texas sold flavors meant to mimic soda or candy, according to the suit.

No one was available to comment regarding the suit. 

The suit says that as recently as 2017, 1 in 6 public high school students reported having used e-cigarettes within the past month. Nationwide, e-cigarette use by high school students jumped by 78% between 2017 and 2018, and rates of current e-cigarette use by middle school students increased by 48% during the same period, according to the suit.

"Defendants target youth in multiple ways, including by offering flavored e-liquids designed to mimic the taste of candy, children's breakfast cereals or sugary beverages, by selling small and inconspicuous devices that are easy for children to conceal from their parents, and by marketing on social media platforms that are popular with teens," the suit says.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of the death of a Bronx teen that was linked to vaping.

As of last month, there were at least 74 confirmed cases of people with serious lung illness after vaping in New York state, according to state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker.

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