THE EVERETT ADVOCATE – Friday, June 7, 2019 Page 17 AG Healey sues national e-cigarette retailer Eonsmoke for marketing and selling nicotine vaping products to minors B OSTON – Attorney General Maura Healey has filed a lawsuit against Eonsmoke LLC, a national retailer of e-cigarette and vaping products that markets its products as “JUUL-compatible,” for violating Massachusetts laws regulating the sale and advertisement of tobacco products. This is the first lawsuit Healey has filed since announcing her office’s investigation into the e-cigarette industry in July 2018. The complaint, which was filed in Suffolk Superior Court, alleges that New Jersey–based Eonsmoke violated the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act by directly targeting young people for sales of its vaping products – including electronic nicotine devices, e-liquids and nicotine pods – through marketing and advertising intended to appeal to youngsters. The complaint also alleges that Eonsmoke failed to verify the age of online purchasers of its products and failed to ensure shipments of these products were received by a person 21 years or older, the state’s minimum legal sales age for smoking products. “Eonsmoke took a page out of the Big Tobacco playbook by peddling nicotine to young people on social media,” said Healey. “Our investigations into JUUL and other e-cigarette retailers continue as we seek to hold companies accountable for marketing these addictive and dangerous products to minors.” Her complaint alleges that Eonsmoke willfully and repeatedly violated the state’s consumer protection law by using a marketing campaign that directly targeted underage consumers. Eonsmoke’s products contain some of the highest nicotine concentrations on the commercial market and come in a variety of sweet and fruit flavors, such as “gummy bear” and “cereal loops.” According to the complaint, Eonsmoke directly marketed its vaping products to young people through social media sites, such as Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube; Eonsmoke’s social media marketing of its products has included youth popular culture references, cartoons and internet memes and intentionally minimized or omitted the fact that these vaping products contain nicotine. The AG’s Office alleges Eonsmoke also strategically amplified its advertising on these platforms through hashtag marketing, social media influencers, and celebrity endorsers who are particularly popular with young people. According to the AG’s investigation of Eonsmoke, between 2015 and 2018, the company did not conduct any age verification of consumers purchasing vaping products from its website, www.eonsmoke.com. The complaint alleges that until September 2018, when the AG’s Office sent a cease and desist letter ordering Eonsmoke to stop selling its products in Massachusetts without an adequate age verification system, underage youngsters across the state could freely purchase unlimited quantities of vaping products through the company’s website. Allegedly, numerous purchases were made through Eonsmoke’s website by Massachusetts consumers without any age verification, and many of these purchasers were under the legal age. As a result of the AG’s cease and desist letter, Eonsmoke currently does not sell its products online to Massachusetts residents. Healey’s complaint seeks injunctive relief preventing Eonsmoke from continuing to engage in unfair and deceptive practices and also seeks civil penalties. E-cigarette use nationwide increased nearly 48 percent for middle school students and 78 percent for high school students between 2017 and 2018 – the largest jump in the use of any drug, including alcohol, in more than 40 years. 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. “As a national grassroots organization of parents committed to keeping predatory e-cigarette companies away from kids, we are deeply grateful to Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey for filing suit against Eonsmoke,” Parents Against Vaping E-cigarettes Cofounder Meredith Berkman said. “We know that Eonsmoke and many others have used flavors and targeted social-media marketing to entice children to purchase their products online without requiring any age verification. Their illegal practices have led in large part to the youth vaping epidemic affecting so many families in Massachusetts and around the country. We applaud AG Healey, a true champion for children and families, for being one of the first elected officials to hold e-cigarette companies accountable for their deceptive actions and hope other AGs will follow her leadership to keep kids safe from companies like Eonsmoke and others that are making billions of dollars by getting kids addicted to nicotine.” “The use of e-cigarettes in adolescents can cause anxiety, depression, mood disorders, and can create a threefold-increase risk that young people will smoke combustible cigarettes,” said Massachusetts General Hospital’s Tobacco Research and Treatment Center’s Director of Pediatric Research, Dr. Jonathan Winickoff. “The addictive potential of these products is extremely high, and we must do all that we can to keep them out of the hands of young people.” Massachusetts regulations set the minimum legal age to purchase electronic smoking devices at 21, and impose two requirements on online retailers of these products to verify a purchaser’s age: 1) Use a commercially-available database to verify the age and identity of purchasers; 2) use a method of mailing, shipping or delivery that requires the signature of a person who is of the minimum legal age before the package is released. In July 2018, Healey announced her office’s investigation into JUUL Labs Inc., Eonsmoke, and other online e-cigarette retailers that sell JUUL and JUUL-compatible products – due to concerns about the marketing and sale of electronic smoking devices and products to minors. Along with Eonsmoke, the AG’s Office also sent cease and desist demands to Direct Eliquid LLC and Kilo E-Liquids, ordering the retailers to stop selling JUUL and other electronic smoking products in Massachusetts without an adequate age verification system as required by state regulations instituted by Healey in 2015. As a result of the cease and desist letters, these companies are no longer selling to Massachusetts residents. The AG’s investigations into JUUL and the other retailers remain ongoing. 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