Attorney General James Cracks Down on Shops Illegally Selling E-Cigarettes to Underage Users and Flavored Vaping Products

Issues Cease and Desist Letters to 47 Retailers Selling Flavored
Vaping Products, Including Sales to Underage Users

Attorney General James Holds Roundtable on Teen Vaping With Experts and Students

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James ordered dozens of retailers across the state to immediately stop selling e-cigarette products to underage customers and to stop selling flavored vaping products in violation of New York state law. Attorney General James’ office issued cease and desist letters to 47 retailers that were illegally selling tobacco products throughout New York state in Albany, Buffalo, Elmira, Hamilton, Nassau, Rochester, Saratoga County, Syracuse, Warren County, Watertown, and the New York City area. The pervasiveness of the sale of vaping products to young buyers in New York state prompted Attorney General James’ office to hold a roundtable on the subject this past week to explore solutions and perspectives from young students, parents, and elected officials. 

“New York banned flavored vaping products and raised the age to buy tobacco products because teens were getting addicted to the dangerous habit of smoking,” said Attorney General James. “These businesses skirted the law, jeopardizing the health of young New Yorkers. We will remain vigilant in holding anyone accountable who endanger our children by circumventing our laws.”

Investigators from Attorney General James’ office found that retailers were violating state law by: 1) selling nicotine products to underage purchasers, 2) selling flavored nicotine vaping products, and 3) selling flavored liquid alongside vaping products for customers to create their own flavored vaping products. The illicit products were sold both in the open and secretly from behind the counter. 

In total, Attorney General James’ office investigated 108 retailers, some of which were located near middle schools and high schools. Among those retailers, investigators found that 47 of them were violating the law, some in multiple instances. 

In New York, it is illegal to sell nicotine products to individuals under the age of 21. As of May 2020, it is illegal to sell flavored nicotine products in New York, and, as of July 2020, it is illegal to sell vaping products online and through mail order to New York consumers. 

“I thank Attorney General James and her office for taking decisive action to protect the health and safety of our children,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. “Today's crackdown sends a clear message that there are consequences for illegally selling e-cigarettes to minors, as well as for selling illegal flavored vaping products. Big Tobacco’s targeting of youth with flavored tobacco products has driven an alarming rise in e-cigarette use among young people. Nassau County will continue working with our state partners to prevent a new generation of young people from getting hooked on dangerous products that lead to a lifetime of nicotine addiction and serious health risks.”

“I am extraordinarily grateful to Attorney General James and her team for today’s strong enforcement actions to protect our kids and our communities from illegal sales of e-cigarettes and flavored vaping products,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman. “Thanks to strong allies in advocates, public health experts, and Attorney General James, the state legislature took decisive action last year against Big Tobacco, including the enactment of my bill with Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. We should expect all New York businesses to follow the law, but as Attorney General James’ investigation has revealed, far too many businesses are still selling addictive nicotine-based products designed to hook our kids. I look forward to a continued partnership with the Attorney General in protecting New Yorkers’ health.”

“I am shocked by the sheer number of retailers revealed by Attorney General Letitia James’ enforcement action who were blatantly disregarding laws I and my colleagues passed to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and the sale of flavored e-cigarettes,” said State Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal. “Together, these laws are powerful public health tools that have the potential to protect a generation of young people against the dangers of vaping. I am grateful that Attorney General James has used them to swiftly crack down on scofflaws, and I look forward to continuing to work together to prevent a generation of young people from becoming addicted to dangerous e-cigarettes.”

“New York has made significant progress in our fight against the scourge of teen vaping and the mega-corporations that are pushing it,” said City Council Member Mark Levine. “But this progress will be undermined if we don’t enforce critical measures like the ban on the flavored vaping products which hook kids. I am grateful for the leadership of Attorney General James in taking on this critical fight.”

This action is the latest in a series of measures Attorney General James has taken to tackle the ongoing youth nicotine epidemic and to protect the health and safety of New Yorkers since taking office. Just this past week, Attorney General James held a roundtable with elected officials, students and parents on the subject of vaping among young people in New York state.

In April 2019, Attorney General James led a coalition of seven states in urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take stronger action in addressing the scourge of e-cigarette use among youths by taking proposed measures such as strengthening guidance, beginning enforcement earlier, and banning online sales of e-cigarettes. This past week the Food and Drug Administration’s rule that subjected e-cigarettes to the same requirements as regular cigarettes was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

In November 2019, Attorney General James filed a lawsuit against the electronic cigarette company JUUL Labs for deceptive and misleading marketing of its e-cigarettes, which contributed to the ongoing youth vaping epidemic in New York state. 

In July 2020, Attorney General James cracked down on three online retailers that were illegally selling e-cigarettes online to consumers in New York, including minors. 

The sweep was conducted by teams of investigators and interns from the Western, Central, Southern, Albany, and New York City regions. From the Western region, this matter was handled by Investigator Jennifer Terranova, Investigator Jessica Holland, Special Student Assistant Abigail Schumacker, and a team of interns that included Liela Fahmy, Alma Petras, Anthony Petrilli and Scott Daigler, under the supervision of Supervising Investigator Ken Peters. From the Central region, this matter was handled by Investigator Chad Shelmidine, Law Department Investigator Andrea Buttenschon and Investigator Kathleen Coppersmith, under the supervision of Supervising Investigator Joseph Kelly. From the Southern region, this matter was handled by Investigator Andre Job under the supervision of Supervising Investigator Paul Matthews. From the Albany area, this matter was handled by Investigator Mark Rudd and Investigator Clint Dumoulin. From the New York City region, this matter was handled by Investigator Crystal Combs under the supervision of Supervising Investigator Cynthia Kane. All the regional investigative teams were overseen by Statewide Supervising Investigator Harry Czosnykowski, under the supervision of Deputy Chief Investigator Jonathan Wood. The Investigations Bureau is led by Chief Oliver Pu-Folkes.

This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the Plattsburgh Regional Office Glen Michaels, under the supervision of Deputy Attorney General for Regional Affairs Jill Faber, and Tobacco Enforcement Section Chief and Acting Deputy Bureau Chief Leslieann Cachola of the Health Care Bureau. The Health Care Bureau is part of the Division for Social Justice, under the supervision of Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux. Both the Health Care Bureau and the Division of Regional Affairs are overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.