Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer announced Monday that the city obtained a court order that prohibits a vaping company from targeting youth in its marketing campaigns and requires the company to pay a $1.2 million penalty.
According to Feuer, Kandypens Inc., which sells vape products online, engaged in youth-targeting marketing through YouTube and Instagram, as well as product placement in music videos for artists with young fan bases, including Justin Bieber and DJ Khaled.
Kandypens issued a statement Monday afternoon accusing the city of prematurely announcing a tentative ruling, but court papers show it became final last Friday. The company did not respond to a subsequent request for comment on the ruling.
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“The vaping industry has taken a page from big tobacco's previous efforts. It uses shiny new e-cigarettes and flavored vapes to attract kids; some vaping companies have employed product placement and engage celebrities to target kids,” Feuer said.
He called vaping an “epidemic,” saying that 27% of high school students vape and a million kids vape every day. Teenagers between 15 and 17 years old are 16 times more likely to vape than people between 25 and 34 years old, he said.
“Tobacco products, including flavored e-liquids, hook kids, and they pose a public health risk,” Feuer said. “Our fight is to protect those kids from getting hooked in a new way, just as their predecessors got hooked a generation ago.”
Feuer's office alleged in its lawsuit -- which was filed on Oct. 3, 2018 -- that Kandypens violated the Unfair Competition Law, California's Stop Tobacco Access to Kids Enforcement Act and Proposition 65.
The ruling issued by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Teresa A. Beaudet prohibits Kandypens, which is headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, and also has an address in Santa Barbara:
-- from having contracts with anyone who has been featured on
Nickelodeon's Kids' Choice Awards;
-- from advertising in entertainment venues that allow minors;
-- from paying anyone under 21 years old to market its products; and
-- from having any merchandise or apparel that features Kandypens on it.
Kandypens is also required under the court order to comply with California's tobacco laws and add an age verification system to all of its social media pages to restrict people who are under 21 years old, according to Feuer.
Feuer said an investigator in his office successfully bought tobacco products from the Kandypens website while posing as a teen customer with a fake email account and prepaid gift card. The website did not ask for the investigator's age before authorizing the purchase.
“Our message to the vaping industry is clear: if you target kids in your marketing and advertising, and you take other steps that enable kids to get access to your products, we're going to hold you to account,” Feuer said.
Parents Against Vaping E-cigarettes released a statement praising the city attorney for obtaining the ruling against Kandypens.
The organization said the order proved that vape companies like Kandypens use candy flavors to hook children “on a strong hit of harmful and highly addictive nicotine.”
“We are grateful to the LA City Attorney for taking action to protect our kids from the industry's candy-flavored deception. Our strong coalition of parents and community leaders and public health organizations will continue fighting the tobacco industry to keep our kids safe and healthy,” Meredith Berkman with Parents Against Vaping E-cigarettes said.