'E-cigarette' distributor settles with California, says it won't target minors

inventor of e-cigarettes smokes one in sillouetteSmoking Everywhere, the largest distributor of electronic cigarettes in the U.S., has agreed not to market its product to minors or claim they're a safe alternative to smoking under a settlement with the California Attorney General.

The settlement comes two months after the state reached a similar agreement with electronic cigarette maker Soterra.

Earlier this year, the state sued Smoking Everywhere for targeting minors and what it said were "misleading and irresponsible" ads. The battery-operated devices simulate the look and feel of a regular cigarette. But instead of smoke, they emit a vapor from a replaceable plastic cartridge than contains several chemicals, including liquid nicotine.

The state argued in its suit that selling flavored e-cigarettes -- strawberry, chocolate or mint, for example -- could appeal to youths. It also took issue with a video that featured radio show host Howard Stern claiming that "kids love 'em."

The company and makers of similar devices say e-cigarettes are safe because they don't contain carcinogens or tar or produce second-hand smoke. But the Food and Drug Administration has warned consumers that these products could be harmful. In its tests, the FDA found ingredients such as diethylene glycol, a toxic chemical used in antifreeze.

Under the settlement, Smoking Everywhere has agreed to the following:
  • Not to market or sell its products to minors. It must make its website age-restricted. Customers will have to show government-issued IDs to buy them in retail locations. The products will be sold behind a counter and advertising must note the age restriction.
  • Not to sell flavored cartridges that could appeal to minors.
  • Not to advertise its products as smoking cessation devices unless approved by the FDA for that purpose.
  • Not to claim its products are safer than cigarettes or that they contain no tobacco, tar or carcinogens. It also can't claim that e-cigarettes produce no second-hand smoke unless reliable scientific evidence supports such claims.
  • To follow quality control standards to eliminate harmful substances and submit to independent audits.
  • To provide a warning on its packages, website and at retail stores that its products contain nicotine, a chemical known to be addictive and to cause birth defects or reproductive harm.
  • To pay $170,000 in penalties and fees.
The e-cigarette industry has come under fire in several states and at the federal level. In August, Smoking Everywhere settled with Oregon's attorney general in an agreement that bars it from doing business in that state. The FDA is in litigation over the regulation of these products. And, the FDA has also sent warning letters to five different makers, saying their marketing claims and manufacturing practices violate federal law.

A representative for Smoking Everywhere could not be reached for comment.
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