A now-defunct e-cigarette retailer has agreed to pay $50 million to resolve allegations it marketed and sold vaping products to minors by appealing to their social media preferences, taste for fruit flavors and penchant to listen to influencers.
The settlement agreement was announced Thursday by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, whose office accused Eonsmoke of "a coordinated advertising campaign intentionally targeted at consumers who were not of the minimum legal purchase age to purchase tobacco products" -- which in Massachusetts is 21.
Eonsmoke directly sold e-cigarette products -- including electronic nicotine devices, e-liquids, and nicotine pods -- to underage consumers via its website, without conducting any age verification at the time of sale or delivery, the state said.
"Eonsmoke coordinated a campaign that intentionally targeted young people and sold dangerous and addictive vaping products directly to minors through their website," Healey said in a news release announcing the settlement. "We were the first to take action against this company and its owners, and today we are holding them accountable and permanently stopping them from conducting these illegal practices in our state."
Eonsmoke shut down in April 2020 amid increased regulatory scrutiny. Its co-owners, Gregory Grishayev and Michael Tolmach, have agreed to pay a combined $750,000 as part of the settlement. If either man wants to sell tobacco products in Massachusetts in the future, they must get authorization from the Food and Drug Administration and give notice to the state attorney general's office.
Eonsmoke's products contained some of the highest nicotine concentrations on the commercial market and came in a variety of sweet and fruit flavors.
Healey alleged it directly marketed vaping products to young people through social media sites such as Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube, and included youth popular culture references, social media influencers, celebrity endorsers, cartoons and internet memes that intentionally minimized or omitted the fact that the vaping products contained nicotine.
Between 2015 and 2018, the company did not conduct any age verification of consumers purchasing vaping products from its website, according to the investigation. Until September 2018, when the attorney general's office sent a cease-and-desist letter ordering Eonsmoke to stop selling its products in Massachusetts, underage youth across the state were able to freely purchase unlimited quantities of vaping products -- some of whom were 15.