New York City is suing 22 e-cigarette sellers in federal court for targeting consumers under 21.
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The federal lawsuit alleges that the e-cigarette companies have violated a city law that prohibits them from making their products readily available by those who are underage without proper age verification. According to the complaint, the online sellers go after young people in their marketing by offering flavors reminiscent of candy or sugary cereals, and by using social media popular with young people to promote their products.
"The kids of New York are the pride of our city, but to these companies, they're just a source of profit," NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. "Preying on minors and hooking them on a potentially lethal, lifelong nicotine addiction is unconscionable. This lawsuit sends a message: we will do whatever it takes to protect our kids and the health of our city."
"By selling their addictive and dangerous products to residents under 21 years of age, these defendants have violated a local law which was implemented to stem the epidemic of vaping among young residents and to prevent a new generation from being addicted to nicotine," said acting corporation counsel for New York City, Georgia M. Pestana. "While the City Department of Health warns of a sharp rise in vaping among middle and high school students, defendants are targeting their products to these young people, further undermining the public health."
The lawsuit by NYC comes after New York state just recently announced a vaping-related death -- a 17-year-old man from the Bronx, who died last week. Federal officials say that at least 18 people have died and more than 1,000 people have been sickened with illnesses linked to vaping.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.