Brown Announces Electronic Cigarette Maker's Agreement to Stop Deceptive Marketing and Sales to Minors
OAKLAND – Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced a settlement with Sottera, one of the country’s largest electronic cigarette producers, to prevent the company from targeting minors and claiming that electronic cigarettes are a safe alternative to smoking.
"Electronic cigarette companies have targeted minors with fruit-flavored products and misleading claims that their products are safe,' Brown said. 'This settlement will stop Sottera from marketing these dangerous and addictive products to kids.”
Brown and Sottera reached the settlement without litigation based on Sottera’s willingness to adopt measures that address Brown’s concerns about the dangers of its electronic cigarettes. In January this year, Brown filed suit against the nation’s other leading e-cigarette retailer, Smoking Everywhere. That lawsuit is proceeding in Alameda County Superior Court.
Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are battery-operated devices with nicotine cartridges designed to look and feel like conventional cigarettes. Instead of actual smoke, e-cigarettes produce a vapor from the nicotine cartridge that is inhaled by the user. Sottera and other electronic cigarette makers have claimed in advertisements and other marketing materials that the e-cigarettes have no carcinogens, no tar, no second-hand smoke, and are therefore safe.
However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that electronic cigarettes contain a variety of dangerous chemicals, including nicotine, carcinogens such as nitrosamines and, in at least one case, diethylene glycol, commonly known as antifreeze.
The products are often marketed with advertisements, and flavors like strawberry, chocolate, mint, banana and cookies-and-cream, that are designed to appeal to a youthful target audience.
Today’s settlement prohibits Sottera from marketing to minors and from making false or misleading claims about electronic cigarettes. Specifically, the company has agreed that it will not:
• Sell electronic cigarettes to minors. Its website will be age-restricted, and a customer will need to provide a government ID before making a purchase. Retail products will be behind a counter. Any advertising will note the age restriction.
• Sell flavored electronic cigarette cartridges, such as strawberry, mint or bubblegum, that could appeal to minors.
• Advertise its product as a smoking cessation device unless the FDA approves it as such.
• Sell cartridges that contain vitamins unless the company obtains competent and reliable scientific evidence to support an implied health claim.
• Claim that the product is safer than cigarettes, contains no tobacco, no tar, no carcinogens or no second-hand smoke unless there is competent reliable scientific evidence to support the claims.
Sottera also agreed to adopt and implement quality control standards for its products to preclude the presence of harmful substances. The company will regularly be subject to independent audits.
Sottera will also provide a Proposition 65 warning that its products contain nicotine, a chemical known by the State of California to cause birth defects or reproductive harm. The warning will include additional information about risks associated with nicotine, including that it is addictive and toxic if swallowed. The warning will appear on product packaging, Sottera’s website and at retail sites.
Sottera will also pay $85,000 in penalties and fees.
A copy of the consent judgment is attached.