Celebrities face backlash for promoting illicit, kid-friendly e-cigs

02:01 18.09.2023

A group representing New York delis and convenience stores, known as the New York Association of Convenience Stores (NYACS), is threatening legal action against rapper Snoop Dogg, former heavyweight champ Mike Tyson, and wrestler Hulk Hogan for their involvement in promoting banned flavored nicotine vapes. These vapes, which have become popular among teens, were banned in New York and nationally by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) in 2020 due to concerns about their appeal to young people.

Despite the ban, companies are using the internet to sell celebrity-endorsed flavors such as Tyson Vape Lush Lime, Hulk Hogan Hulkmania Cotton Candy, and Death Row by Snoop Dogg Blue Razz. These devices are available in fruity and dessert flavors like apple gummies, strawberry shortcake, and cotton candy. The NYACS claims that lax enforcement from state and federal authorities has allowed the illicit market for these products to thrive, with kids being particularly drawn to their sweet flavors.

In response to this situation, the NYACS has sent "cease and desist" letters to the three celebrities, demanding that they rescind their endorsement deals with manufacturers of these illegal flavored disposable e-cigarettes. Kent Sopris, the president of NYACS, expressed his disappointment with the celebrities' involvement, stating, "It's bad enough that these illegal disposable flavored vapes continue to be sold on the black market with virtual impunity, but it's appalling that these illicit products now have celebrity pitchmen to give these criminal enterprises an air of legitimacy." The association represents over 7,000 stores and emphasizes its commitment to selling only legal products to eligible customers.

The NYACS specifically highlighted the availability of illegal vapes endorsed by Snoop Dogg and Mike Tyson in their letters to the celebrities. Sopris noted that Snoop Dogg's "Death Row Vapes" are available in 21 distinct flavors, while Tyson's "Tyson 2.0 Heavyweight" vape products can be found in 37 flavors. The letters emphasize the celebrities' unintentional or intentional involvement with illegal products that contribute to a youth tobacco use crisis. Sopris calls on the celebrities to sever their endorsement deals, as their involvement lends credibility to these illegal vapes.

The issue of flavored vapes and their appeal to young people has gained significant attention in recent years. A study conducted by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 2.55 million US middle and high school students vape, with nearly 85% of them using flavored e-cigarettes. The 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey conducted by the CDC revealed that youth use of flavored disposable vapes has skyrocketed compared to other tobacco products. This alarming trend prompted New York City to file a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) suit against four major distributors of illegal disposable vapes.

Mayor Eric Adams emphasized the dangers of these products, stating, "Those who say that these products are safe, that is 100% percent false. These products are packed with nicotine, a toxic and highly addictive chemical that is particularly damaging to adolescent minds and bodies." Furthermore, NYACS recently issued a notice to parents about illegal disposable vapes disguised as everyday objects like highlighters, ballpoint pens, USB drives, and even cell phones. These deceptive designs aim to help underage vapers avoid detection in academic settings.

The involvement of celebrities like Snoop Dogg, Mike Tyson, and Hulk Hogan in promoting illegal flavored vapes has attracted criticism. Jim Carroll, the former White House drug czar, expressed his disappointment in these celebrities for promoting dangerous products to kids. Meredith Berkman, co-founder of the advocacy group Parents Against Vaping e-cigarettes, stated that the celebrities' use of their likeness to market flavored vapes is disheartening and contributes to the problem. Experts have emphasized that these products are not only dangerous but also illegal to sell and distribute in the United States.

The FDA has only authorized the sale of 23 vaping products, all of which are tobacco-flavored and intended for adults. Efforts have been made by the FDA to limit the influx of vapes into the country, including banning imports of certain devices and issuing warning letters to retailers selling unauthorized products. However, the majority of these vapes are manufactured in Shenzhen, China.

Despite requests for comment, representatives for Snoop Dogg, Mike Tyson, and Hulk Hogan, as well as their brands, have not responded. The NYACS and other organizations continue to push for stricter enforcement of the ban on flavored vapes and the prevention of celebrity endorsement of illegal products.

/ Monday, September 18, 2023, 2:01 AM /

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