Friday, January 28, 2022

California vape company, others pay for illegal sales into Washington

Assistant Managing Editor | June 22, 2021 1:00 AM

A California vaping company must pay $375,000 to resolve a lawsuit over illegal sales into Washington, according to a release from Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who brought the lawsuit against the company in August 2020 after its initial refusal to cooperate with an investigation.

Ferguson’s office investigated in 2019 and 2020 online vaping retailers and caught seven violating Washington’s online age verification law, among others. The seven signed judgments require them to pay more than half a million dollars combined, which will go to continued enforcement of the state’s vaping laws.

However, one of the companies, E-Juice Vapor Inc., didn’t cooperate in the investigation’s initial phase and didn’t provide information about its sales into Washington. So, Ferguson filed a lawsuit. The company is paying more than the other six “because of its initial lack of cooperation and because its sales into Washington state were significantly higher than the other retailers,” the release stated.

Investigators posed as minors or used false identifying information to try to purchase nicotine-containing vapor products. State law requires age verification for online vapor products, such as having sellers verify the buyer’s age with a third-party service to confirm buyers’ identities.

Seven of the investigated 148 online sellers illegally sold products to investigators without verifying ages of purchasers, the release stated. Six of those signed legal agreements to change their advertising and online sales practices to adhere to Washington’s law. VanVal Vapor, based in Spokane, paid $30,000; Zenith, in New York, $50,000; Local Vape, in Henderson, Nevada, $25,000; Northland Vapor, in Moorhead, Minnesota, $7,000; WOV, in Castle Rock, Colorado, $20,000; and Vaping Zone, in Columbia, South Carolina, $40,000.

E-Juice Vapor advertised its products as similar to candy, the release stated. Investigators found “Candy King’’ vapor products were “profiled to suggest a flavor like Sour Patch Kids, Strawberry Sour Belts, Swedish Fish and Strawberry Watermelon Bubbalicious.” The description said, “take a gander… you will see they look precisely like sacks of your most loved candy,” the release quoted the ad saying.

Besides that, none of the seven companies complied with state laws, including clearly stating Washignton’s minimum legal age of 21 on their websites, requiring credit card information verification, getting a signed certification from the buyer saying who they claim to be and are of legal age, including shipping documents stating the package contains vapor products, and providing information about state law regarding minors.

Four of the companies didn’t have a license to ship products to consumers, either.

Assistant Attorney General Brendan Selby, and investigators Tony Perkins and Eric Peters handled the cases for the office’s Complex Litigation Division. The division represents “the office’s most difficult, challenging and high profile cases,” the release stated.

E-cigarette use among teenagers has skyrocketed, according to the release. Thirteen percent of high school sophomores in the state used vaping products in 2016. In 2018, the number went to 21%. In 2011, less than 1% of middle-schoolers used the products, but in 2019, one in 10 nationwide did.

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