Investigation showed the company sold and shipped products into Washington without verifying buyers’ ages
SEATTLE — Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit today against an Orange County-based company that marketed vapor products containing nicotine in a way that appealed to youth, then sold the products without verifying the buyers’ ages. The company, E-Juice Vapors, failed to comply with numerous age verification requirements intended to prevent youth from purchasing vapor products online. Moreover, E-Juice Vapors never received a license from the state to deliver vapor products into Washington as required by Washington law.
The lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court, seeks to block E-Juice Vapors’ future unlawful sales and obtain financial penalties to hold the company accountable for its unlawful conduct.
E-Juice Vapors refused to comply with the Attorney General’s investigation. Consequently, the number of total online sales into Washington remains unknown.
A bipartisan 2016 law passed by the Washington Legislature required multiple levels of age verification for online sales of vapor products. For example, vapor product sellers must verify the buyer’s age using a third-party service to confirm the buyer’s identity. Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Ferguson advocated for strong age verification requirements in the legislation.
In December 2019, the Attorney General’s Office began an investigation into E-Juice Vapors. Investigators clicked on an image at the company’s web site for a “Candy King” branded category. The investigator then purchased one of the products in the Candy King line called “Blue Razz by Candy King Bubblegum” and did so without verifying an age or submitting any identification. The company delivered the product about two weeks later.
The page described the “Candy King” vapor product line as “profiled to suggest a flavor like Sour Patch Kids, Strawberry Sour Belts, Swedish Fish and Strawberry Watermelon Bubbalicious.” The description continued, “take a gander…you will see they look precisely like sacks of your most loved candy.”
“I worked with public health officials and a bipartisan group of elected officials to ensure we have strong age verification requirements for online vapor sales to youth,” Ferguson said. “My office’s investigation revealed that E-Juice Vapors put profits over the safety of its customers and completely ignored these requirements. We will hold E-Juice Vapors accountable for breaking the law and putting youth at risk.”
“We applaud Attorney General Ferguson for taking forceful action against tobacco companies that are marketing and selling their products to kids,” said Annie Tegen, Advocacy Director for Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “He is standing up for Washington’s kids in the never-ending battle against Big Tobacco and its allies. We applaud him for his relentless work fighting an industry that is determined to addict a new generation of kids on nicotine and reverse decades of progress in our fight against tobacco use.”
In the complaint, Ferguson notes that nearly 28 percent of high-school students and more than 10 percent of middle-school students use vapor products. According to the U.S. Surgeon General’s Office, vaping use among youth has reached “epidemic proportions.”
The Attorney General’s Office asked the company to comply with the investigation in March 2020 by providing specific information about its sales into Washington state, but received no responsive records.
Selling vaping products to minors is a felony with a maximum fine of $5,000. Other penalties could include:
- Civil penalty of up to $5,000 for each violation
- Revocation or suspension of the seller’s license by the licensing board
- Recovery for the cost of its investigation, the costs of the action and reasonable attorney’s fees
- A court can order any profits or other benefits from the sale go to the state’s general fund.
The company has a history of marketing to children. In 2018 the owner of E-Juice Vapors received a warning from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for advertising products in a misleading way that appealed to children by describing the products as similar to candy.
Assistant Attorney General Brendan Selby and investigators Tony Perkins and Eric Peters are handling the case for the office’s Complex Litigation Division.
The Complex Litigation Division provides representation on the office’s most difficult, challenging and high profile cases. It also fulfills a leading role for the office in the enforcement of the tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. This includes monitoring and enforcing violations of advertising restrictions by the major tobacco companies, multi-state litigation of payment disputes and assistance with implementation of the public health provisions. Regulatory enforcement of the emerging e-cigarette and vaping industries is an increasing portion of this role.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Dan Jackson, Acting Communications Director, (360) 753-2716; firstname.lastname@example.org
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