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May 31, 2019

Massachusetts AG Aims for JUUL, Hits Eonsmoke

Almost a year after announcing an investigation into JUUL Labs, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has sued vape manufacturer Eonsmoke for selling products online without proper age verifications and marketing its JUUL-compatible pods and devices to minors. Eonsmoke is not affiliated with JUUL.

The complaint alleges that Eonsmoke violated the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act by targeting minors with “marketing and advertising intended to appeal to youth.” The AG also says Eonsmoke failed to verify the legal age of online purchasers. The complaint demands Eonsmoke pay “restitution, civil penalties, attorneys’ fees, and costs as well as other equitable relief as the court may determine is appropriate.”

“Eonsmoke took a page out of the Big Tobacco playbook by peddling nicotine to young people on social media,” Healey said in a press release. “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.”

JUUL would almost certainly like to see Eonsmoke and the other sellers of clones and compatible pods disappear.

But Eonsmoke isn’t JUUL. Healey had already issued a cease-and-desist letter to Eonsmoke last July, when she announced her investigation of JUUL. She still hasn’t taken any action against her primary target.

Eonsmoke is the New Jersey-based company known for hyping JUUL (and its own copycat products) on various Instagram accounts, and selling JUUL-compatible devices and pods online and in convenience stores. The company has also been a target of JUUL itself, who named Eonsmoke as a patent infringer in a complaint to the International Trade Commission last October.

Despite being sued by JUUL and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Eonsmoke is still selling its JUUL-compatible products online today. According to Boston Magazine, Eonsmoke says it has cooperated with Healey and now has “strict age verification” processes. The company also says it no longer sells its products online to Massachusetts customers.

Healey announced an investigation of JUUL with great fanfare last July, claiming her inquiry would “examine JUUL’s efforts to audit its own website and other online retailers that sell its products to see how effective they are at preventing minors from accessing JUUL or JUUL compatible products.”

After all of Healey’s huffing and puffing about bold action against JUUL at last year’s press conference, suing Eonsmoke seems kind of embarrassing.

But it’s not JUUL’s responsibility to police other companies’ sales practices. In fact, JUUL would almost certainly like to see Eonsmoke and the other sellers of clones and compatible pods disappear. Blaming JUUL for Eonsmoke’s shifty practices is just plain silly, even if JUUL benefitted indirectly from the clone maker’s popular “juulnation” IG account (which is no longer active).

Since Healey’s July 2018 press conference, JUUL Labs hired former Massachusetts AG Martha Coakley for its government relations team, and has beefed up its lobbying presence around the country.

Although Healey hasn’t yet taken any action against JUUL, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein filed suit against the San Francisco company earlier this month. Stein’s complaint alleges JUUL marketed its products to minors and downplayed the effects of nicotine.

Healey may wait and see how the North Carolina suit plays out. Or maybe she knows she just doesn’t have a real case against JUUL. After all of Healey’s huffing and puffing about bold action against JUUL at last year’s press conference, suing Eonsmoke seems kind of embarrassing. It’s sort of like a big game hunter coming home with a squirrel: he shot something, but it won’t look very impressive mounted on the wall.

Smokers created vaping without any help from the tobacco industry or anti-smoking crusaders, and vapers have the right to keep innovating to help themselves. My goal is to provide clear, honest information about the challenges vaping faces from lawmakers, regulators, and brokers of disinformation. I recently joined the CASAA board, but my opinions aren’t necessarily CASAA’s, and vice versa. You can find me on Twitter @whycherrywhy

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