Altria Sues 34 Vape Companies, Contends Competitors are Illegal

NJOY LLC contends are the company routinely break both state and federal laws.

Marlboro cigarette maker Altria Group Inc. (NYSE: MO) and one of its electronic cigarette-maker subsidiaries have filed a lawsuit against nearly three dozen competitors that it contends are routinely breaking both state and federal laws, in an attempt to drive the vape companies out of business.

The defendants – which include brand names Breeze, Elf Bar, EB, EB Create, Esco Bar, Flum, Juice Box, Lava Plus, Loon, Lost Mary, Mr. Fog, and Puff Bar according to a press release – have been making and selling vaporizer cartridge technology that has been used primarily in the e-cigarette sector, but some of the companies have also expanded into the cannabis trade.

Altria has also dipped its toes into the cannabis industry, with a large ownership stake in Canadian marijuana firm Cronos Group, as well as membership in the Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education and Regulation (CPEAR), a national U.S. marijuana lobbying and reform group. Altria also has a large ownership stake in e-cigarette maker Juul.

The lawsuit, filed in federal district court in California by Altria subsidiary NJOY LLC, alleges that the 34 defendants have been violating a California flavor ban on vape cartridges that went into effect last year and selling federally illegal products. The suit also alleges that they “illegally compete” against rule-abiding companies such as Altria, according to the release. The suit asserts violations of the Lanham Act and the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act of 2009.

“Today there are two markets – one for those who play by the rules and one for those who flagrantly ignore them. We are taking this action because the current state of the illicit e-vapor market is intolerable, and we must see more action from FDA and others,” Altria general counsel Murray Garnick said.

Altria contends that the vapes made and sold by the defendants have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as Altria’s have been, and that many of the defendants have already received warning letters from the FDA regarding their business operations.

The suit seeks a nationwide injunction to halt the import and sale of all vaping products in question by the defendants, which includes some foreign companies, as well as punitive damages.

The legal action may also not be the last, as Altria seeks to protect its vape market share. The company noted in its release that it may still increase the list of defendant companies and “will consider further litigation” as warranted.

John Schroyer

John Schroyer has been a reporter since 2006, initially with a focus on politics, and covered the 2012 Colorado campaign to legalize marijuana. He has written about the cannabis industry specifically since 2014, after being on hand for the first-ever legal cannabis sales on New Year’s Day that year in Denver. John has covered subsequent marijuana market launches in California and Illinois, has written about every aspect of the marijuana trade, and was part of the team that built the cannabis industry’s first-ever trade show, MJBizCon. He joined Green Market Report in 2022.

One comment

  • Bcweedpen

    November 27, 2023 at 4:43 am

    This legal move by Altria against 34 vape companies raises crucial questions about the regulatory landscape surrounding the vaping industry. It sheds light on the challenges faced by established players in navigating a market with evolving norms. The lawsuit suggests Altria’s concerns about the legitimacy of its competitors, underscoring the need for clear regulations to ensure a level playing field. This legal battle could set a precedent for the entire vaping sector, emphasizing the urgency for policymakers to address regulatory gaps and establish a framework that safeguards both established and emerging players.


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