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A group representing New York delis and convenience stores has threatened legal action against rapper Snoop Dogg, former heavyweight champ Mike Tyson and wrestler Hulk Hogan for peddling banned flavored nicotine vapes that have become popular with teens.
Despite being banned in New York and nationally by the Federal Drug Administration in 2020, companies use the internet to hawk celebrity-endorsed flavors like Tyson Vape Lush Lime, Hulk Hogan Hulkmania Cotton Candy and Death Row by Snoop Dogg Blue Razz.
The devices are sold in fruity and dessert flavors such as apple gummies, strawberry shortcake and cotton candy.
Despite the ban, the illicit market for these products thrives due to lax enforcement from state and federal authorities — with kids particularly being drawn to their sweet flavors, according to The New York Association of Convenience Stores.
The merchants’ group sent “cease and desist” letters to the three celebrities, demanding that they rescind their endorsement deals with manufacturers of illegal flavored disposable e-cigs.
“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,” said NYACS president Kent Sopris.
“Our members obey the law and sell only reputable products. This farce needs to end, these celebrities need to retract their endorsements and New York and federal authorities need to get serious about enforcing the law.”
The New York Association of Convenience Stores represents over 7,000 stores.
In a “Dear Snoop Dog” letter, Sopris noted that illegal “Death Row Vapes by Snoop Dogg” are available in 21 distinct flavors. Tyson was told in his letter that illegal “Tyson 2.0 Heavyweight” vape products are available in 37 flavors.
“I write to inform you that – intentionally or unintentionally – you have lent your name and likeness to an illegal product that cannot be sold in the United States and is fueling a youth tobacco use crisis. As such, you are lending credibility to an illegal enterprise and we demand that this situation be rectified immediately,” Sopris said in the letters.
“Disposal flavored vape devices such as Death Row Vapes by Snoop Dogg have been banned by the FDA since 2020. Yet, these illegal devices, in 21 distinct flavors, are for sale on the internet and available to ship anywhere in the U.S.,” the letter to Snoop Dogg says.
Sopris said convenience stores sell cigarettes and other tobacco but “take very seriously their responsibility to sell only legal products to people legally eligible to purchase them.”
“Endorsements of illegal products by celebrities such as yourself are counterproductive to efforts being made to get these products off the streets and out of the hands of young people,” he wrote.
“We ask that you sever whatever endorsement deal you may have with this product’s manufacturer, as your involvement gives the veneer of credibility and proprietary to these illegal vapes.”
A recent study conducted by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 2.55 million US middle and high school students vaped, with nearly 85% of them using flavored e-cigarettes and more than half using disposable e-cigarettes.
The 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey conducted by the CDC showed that youth use of flavored disposable vapes skyrocketed compared to other tobacco products, which have plummeted among youths.
New York City recently filed a first in the nation Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act RICO suit against four of the largest distributors of illegal disposable vapes.
“Those who say that these products are safe, that is 100% percent false,” Mayor Eric Adams said in July while announcing the legal action. “These products are packed with nicotine, a toxic and highly addictive chemical that is particularly damaging to adolescent minds and bodies.”
NYACS recently put out a notice to parents about illegal disposable vapes disguised as highlighters, ballpoint pens, USB drives or even cell phones. These devices are seemingly designed to help underage vapers avoid detection in academic settings.
Reps for Snoop Dogg, Tyson and Hulk Hogan had no immediate comment.