SEATTLE — Attorney General Bob Ferguson today announced three actions to stop deceptive advertising and labeling by e-cigarette liquid — or e-liquid — manufacturers.
Ferguson filed a lawsuit in King County Superior Court against Alchemy e-Lixirs, a California-based company, for making unsubstantiated health claims, for deceptive labelling, and for selling products as organic without being certified. He also required two other companies that labeled e-liquid as organic without being certified — California-based Jai Mundi, which produces Virgin Vapor brand e-liquid, and New Jersey-based Orb Vapor — to enter into “Assurance of Discontinuance” agreements filed in Thurston County Superior Court to stop their deceptive labelling.
“Washington consumers have a right to expect product labels to be truthful,” Ferguson said. “I will not tolerate businesses making unsubstantiated claims about their products, and I will continue to work for more oversight to protect consumers, especially children, in this largely unregulated but booming industry.”
E-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems have exploded in popularity since their introduction to U.S. markets around 2007. The e-cigarette market is growing into a $3.5 billion industry, and thousands of e-cig businesses have sprung up across the country.
In the wake of this market expansion and ensuing public discourse about the health claims of “vaping” — the inhalation of vaporized solvent, usually containing nicotine — some e-cig businesses began marketing their e-liquid as “organic.”
Alchemy e-Lixirs manufactures and sells e-liquids that it claims are 100 percent organic. It advertised that, because its e-liquids are organic, the products are “safe,” “healthy,” and “completely free from any potential harm.”
Some of the ingredients in Alchemy e-Lixirs are organic, but not 100 percent of them. In addition, Alchemy failed to produce any evidence to verify its health claims. Alchemy has not established that its e-liquid— whether organic or not — is safe and healthy.
Alchemy has also failed to obtain organic certification as required by Washington’s organic products law.
These are violations of the Consumer Protection Act.
Jai Mundi (“Virgin Vapor”) and Orb Vapor
Jai Mundi, which produces Virgin Vapor brand e-liquid, and Orb Vapor manufacture and sell what they call “organic” e-liquid, but both failed to obtain organic certification as required by state law.
Additionally, Jai Mundi and Orb Vapor claimed that their products are made with organic ingredients even when the products contained less than 70 percent organic ingredients. Under Washington law, which incorporates federal organic regulations, the phrase “made with organic” ingredients generally may not be used to label and promote products that contain less than 70 percent organic ingredients.
These actions also constitute Consumer Protection Act violations.
To remedy their violations of the Consumer Protection Act, Jai Mundi and Orb Vapor have entered into Assurances of Discontinuance with the Attorney General’s Office. The companies have come into compliance with Washington’s organic products statute and with the federal organic regulations adopted by Washington. Orb Vapor is no longer labelling and advertising its products as organic. Jai Mundi has discontinued some products, modified labels, and is completing the organic certification process.
Attorney General to pursue state legislation to increase e-cigarette regulation
Last legislative session, Governor Jay Inslee and Attorney General Ferguson introduced legislation to regulate e-cigarettes and related products in a manner substantially similar to tobacco products.
Nicotine, for which e-cigarettes are frequently used as a delivery device, is a highly addictive drug — as addictive as heroin and cocaine, according to scientific studies — and harmful to adolescent and young adult brain development. Moreover, the long-term health effects of inhaling e-cigarette aerosol solvent are unknown.
Currently, e-cigarettes are essentially unregulated in Washington. For example, no independent testing is done to determine the contents of e-liquids. There is no license required to sell e-cigarettes and the state does not know how many stores are selling them, or where all such stores are located.
Additionally, the Liquor and Cannabis Board does not currently have the authority to perform compliance checks to ensure e-cigarettes are not being sold to minors, even as their use by teens is skyrocketing. The 2014 Washington Health Youth Survey showed 23 percent of 12th graders and 18 percent of 10th graders report using vapor products in the past 30 days.
There are no requirements for child-resistant packaging to keep vapor products out of the hands of children. In 2014, the Washington Poison Center received calls concerning 133 children exposed to vapor fluids.
While the Legislature did not act last session, Ferguson continues to pursue legislation that would:
- Require a special license to sell vapor products, and grant the Liquor and Cannabis Board authority to ensure compliance with youth access laws;
- Require child-resistant packaging and warning labels; and
- Prevent minors from buying vapor products over the Internet.
Pierce and Snohomish Counties recently proposed local ordinances to regulate vapor products.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Attorney General Bob Ferguson is working hard to protect consumers and seniors against fraud, keep our communities safe, protect our environment and stand up for our veterans. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Peter Lavallee, Communications Director, (360) 586-0725; PeterL@atg.wa.gov