Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has sued eight vaping companies, charging that they illegally sold and delivered flavored products to the state, after Massachusetts banned sales last month. This isn’t Healey’s first time taking advantage of the vaping controversy to promote herself.
In a complaint filed in Suffolk Superior Court, Healey alleged that the companies “violated state laws and regulations by selling flavored tobacco products to Massachusetts consumers and failing to protect against delivery of these products to minors.”
The companies named by Healey are:
“These companies are in flagrant violation of our new state law that was put in place to protect young people from the serious harms caused by vaping,” said Healey in a press release. “Our state has been a leader in fighting this public health crisis, and we will continue to go after companies that ignore our laws and put young people at risk.”
The AG’s Office is also seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent the illegal sale of these products while litigation is ongoing. A hearing on the AG’s motion for an injunction has been scheduled for January 7 in Suffolk Superior Court.
Massachusetts banned the sale of all flavored “tobacco products” in November, becoming the first state in the country to do so. The law also includes a 75 percent wholesale tax on all vaping products, and includes fines for vapers who possess products without proof they’ve been taxed by the state.
The attorney general’s office says in its press release that flavored products are “a reason why many [youth] start and continue using nicotine vaping products.” It’s true that flavors are one reason—but only the third most popular reason, according to the National Youth Tobacco Survey. Just 22.3 percent of high school students chose flavors as a reason why they vaped in the multiple-choice survey. The most common reason kids try vaping is curiosity, named by more than half of the surveyed students.
Healey also says the eight manufacturers “do not use a method of mailing, shipping, or delivery of these tobacco products that requires the signature of a person who is of the minimum legal age before the package is released.” Massachusetts requires vaping products being shipped be received by an adult over 21.
Healey has used vaping as a springboard for self-promotion before. In July 2018 she held a press conference to announce an investigation of JUUL Labs. The embarrassing event (see video above) included the attorney general showing comedy memes from Instagram and claiming they represented actual marketing of vape products.
That investigation has so far failed to produce any legal action against the hated San Francisco-based vape manufacturer, although several other state attorneys general have filed lawsuits against JUUL. What it did do, probably, is help JUUL effectively advertise its products in Massachusetts without spending a dime—and score Healey some political points with panicked parents.
Despite her failure to take any concrete action against JUUL, she did manage to sue JUUL copycat pod maker Eonsmoke earlier this year. That action was probably cheered by JUUL itself, which has itself tried to shut down Eonsmoke and other “JUUL-compatible” pod manufacturers.