E-Cigarette company faces legal fights on multiple fronts

Chris Rizo Jan. 21, 2010, 4:32pm

Jerry Brown (D-Calif.)

John Kroger (D-Ore.)

Ellen Corbett (D)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline)-Officials in California are making a strong push against one of the largest electronic cigarette retailers in the United States.

It seems that the manufacturer -- Smoking Everywhere LLC -- is facing attack on at least two fronts in the Golden State: from the attorney general and a leading state lawmaker.

State Attorney General Jerry Brown, a Democrat, is suing Smoking Everywhere, alleging that the Sunrise, Fla.-based company is targeting minors in its marketing and making "misleading and irresponsible" claims that its tar-free alternatives to traditional cigarettes are safe.

"Smoking Everywhere launched a misleading and irresponsible advertising campaign targeting minors and claiming that electronic cigarettes do not contain harmful chemicals," Brown said. "We are asking the Court to take these cigarettes off the market until the company has proven the products are safe."

For its part, Smoking Everywhere claims that their products, which come in a range of flavors including mint, strawberry and chocolate, are designed to replicate smoking without some of the harmful side-effects of a traditional cigarette.

The electronic cigarette functions by vaporizing a liquid nicotine mixture that is derived naturally from tobacco plants. The user inhales vapor without the fire, flame, tar, carbon monoxide, ash or smell of traditional cigarettes.

In his lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court, Brown is seeking to bar Smoking Everywhere from doing business in California until the company can prove that its products are safe and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

A similar lawsuit was filed last year against Smoking Everywhere by Oregon Attorney General John Kroger, a Democrat. The case is pending, a Kroger spokesman said Thursday.

Complicating the two state cases could be a recent ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard Leon of the District of Columbia, who in a 32-page opinion found that the FDA has no authority to regulate electronic cigarettes.

If Brown's lawsuit did not mean enough legal trouble for the company in California, a state senator here has renewed her push to curb the sale of so-called e-cigarettes. But this time she is just targeting sales to minors.

State Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, introduced her measure the day after Brown filed his lawsuit.

Corbett, chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had a bill last year that would have banned the sale of e-cigarettes in the state entirely but the legislation was vetoed by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

This year's Senate Bill 882 would take effect immediately upon the governor's signature.

"I am pleased to see the attorney general joining this very important fight against these deceptive and harmful products," Corbett said in a statement. "We hope to move this urgency bill to the governor as quickly as possible to try to keep these addictive products out of the hands of minors."

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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