Online tobacco retailer to pay over $65,000 as a result of AG Ferguson’s investigation into illegal online tobacco sales
Smoker’s Outlet Online sold tobacco products online then mailed them into Washington state, a clear violation of state law
OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson today announced a Pennsylvania online tobacco retailer, Smoker’s Outlet Online, will pay $65,885 after it illegally sent tobacco products to Washington state. The payment will go toward continued enforcement of state tobacco laws. Smoker’s Outlet Online made this payment to avoid a lawsuit from the Attorney General’s Office.
Washington state law prohibits corporations from selling tobacco products by mail or internet to Washingtonians unless the buyer is a licensed retailer or wholesaler. Smoker’s Outlet Online sent the products to investigators in the Washington Attorney General’s Office, in violation of state law.
“Corporations selling addictive tobacco products must comply with the law — period,” Ferguson said. “Washington prohibits mail and internet tobacco sales as part of our robust strategy to reduce youth access. I will hold tobacco companies that violate the law accountable.”
Smoker’s Outlet Online, based in York, Penn., advertises loose pipe tobacco, cigars, e-cigarettes and various tobacco supplies. According to company records, it sold over 4,300 products into the state over a two year period. The company discontinued sales directly to Washington consumers after the investigation began.
The Attorney General’s Office will continue to investigate businesses that may be in violation of our tobacco sales laws.
Assistant Attorney General Joshua Studor handled the case for the office’s Consumer Protection Division.
Reducing teen nicotine access
This case is part of an effort by the Attorney General’s Office to reduce youth access to nicotine products. For example, the Centers for Disease Control cited a study showing underage adolescents successfully purchased cigarettes from online vendors in 92 percent of their attempts.
In 2016 and 2019, Ferguson successfully proposed legislation restricting the sales of vaping products online and raising the purchase age to 21 for vapor and tobacco products.
Ferguson recently announced the results of a sweep that represented a continuation of his efforts to reduce youth access to nicotine vaping products. Investigators caught seven online vaping companies selling products without verifying the ages of the purchasers. Five of these companies will pay just over $132,000 to the office, which also will aid future tobacco enforcement efforts.
In September, Ferguson sued JUUL, the largest e-cigarette company in the nation, for illegally targeting underage consumers in its advertising and product design. The lawsuit against JUUL asserts it violated the state Consumer Protection Act by designing and marketing its products to appeal to underage consumers and deceiving consumers about the addictiveness of its product.