Ohio’s Vapor Wars just keep on going

Posted on Jul 10, 2024

Well, Gov. Mike DeWine’s favored statewide ban on flavored nicotine products may never have become law, Ohio legislators may have jammed DeWine by passing legislation banning a city-by-city patchwork of flavored nicotine regulation, and judges may be left sorting the mess out.

But Ohio AG Dave Yost seems to think he’s found a way to go after flavored nicotine products, anyway. From the Plain Dealer:

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost filed lawsuits Tuesday against three tobacco shops around the state, accusing them of selling illegal tobacco vapes with flavors like strawberry kiwi and double peach.

The blitz of new cases in Wayne, Hamilton and Delaware counties say the stores sold vapes that are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Instead of federal enforcement, Yost claims that the stores violated Ohio’s consumer protection laws because the sellers failed to disclose the illegality of the products and misrepresented their authorization status.

“You don’t have any idea what is in those vape cartridges,” Yost said in a statement. “This is a consumer protection issue, particularly when it comes to our youngsters that are still developing, the idea these unregulated, unauthorized vapes are on the market is a real danger.”

In each of the cases, a state investigator bought illegal vape products “undercover.” That includes a strawberry kiwi EBCreate vape (known as Elf Bars) from Orrville Tobacco and Vape Shop; a double peach Mr. Fog Max Air and a strawberry-banana EBCreate from the Cincinnati-area Elevate Smoke; and a Lost Mary OS5000 in blueberry-raspberry-gami and a “strawmelon” flavored Breeze Smoke from Central Tobacco and Stuff near Columbus.

The vapes all carried disclaimers like “sale only allowed in the United States,” per Yost’s office

“Despite the representation that sale of the Breeze Smoke ‘Pro Edition’ is ‘only allowed in the United States,’ Breeze Smoke ‘pro edition’ – in orange mango watermelon or any flavor other than tobacco or menthol – is not allowed to be sold in the United States, including Ohio,” the lawsuit states.

What’s interesting here is that this is one type of action on flavored nicotine products that the bigger tobacco companies might support. Notably, the action is not targeted against products made by Altria, Reynolds, PMI, or any other company. One name does stand out– right up top: Elf Bar.

Those are the Chinese-made disposable vapes that piss off environmentalists so much because they allegedly contribute to litter and waste, piss off parents because of the supposedly very “kid-friendly” flavors, and also piss off the non-Chinese tobacco companies because they present competition they most definitely do not want. They also (duh) piss off China hawks who don’t think anyone in the US should be buying any Chinese-made anything (whether it’s vapes or socks or phones). So, basically, Yost has managed to find a target that basically everyone hates. And has couched his action as “consumer protection.”

Pretty smart maneuvering, Yost. We’ll see how it plays out!