SFALP Helps File Suit to Enforce Flavored Tobacco and E-Cigarette Bans

closeup of a man using an e-cigarette
After decades of decline, tobacco use among youth increased for the first time in 2018.

With the help of the San Francisco Affirmative Litigation Project (SFALP) at Yale Law School, the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office (SFCAO) filed suit against companies making online sales of prohibited flavored tobacco products, including flavored electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), to consumers in San Francisco.

array of brightly colored e-cgarette packaging
An array of brightly colored e-cigarette packaging.

After decades of decline, tobacco use among youth increased for the first time in 2018, largely attributable to a nationwide surge in e-cigarette use and marketing of flavors with obvious appeal to youth, such as gummy bear, cotton candy, and fruit punch. In response, San Francisco became one of the first jurisdictions in the nation to prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes, building off the City’s existing policies restricting the sale of flavored tobacco products. 

The City’s lawsuit alleges that Millenial One, Inc., Gashiro Technology LLC, Dasmokey, LLC, and other unnamed companies have violated these laws by selling a variety of flavored tobacco products, including flavored e-cigarettes, directly to people in San Francisco. Through their website, the defendants sell tobacco products directly to consumers with flavor names such as Apple Pearadise, The Finest Vanilla Almond Custard, and Rainbow Candy. The lawsuit also maintains that the defendants failed to comply with certain requirements of the Stop Tobacco Access to Kids Enforcement Act, which creates safeguards intended to prevent sales of tobacco products to minors.

“The people of San Francisco have sent a clear message rejecting the sale of e-cigarettes and flavored tobacco products in and into their communities,” SFALP student Amber Gibson ’23 said. “It has been such a rewarding experience to work with some of the wonderful lawyers at the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office to develop a case that seeks to reflect the will of the people in emphasizing zero tolerance for these products.”

SFALP partners students with San Francisco Deputy City Attorneys to develop and litigate groundbreaking public interest lawsuits. Doménica Merino ’24 helped draft the complaint as part of the clinic’s working group on this matter. She and Gibson provided research and writing support in the months leading up to filing. 

“Doménica and Amber have been key members of our team this semester,” said Deputy City Attorney Julie Wilensky. “They contributed immensely to the case by providing factual and legal research, helping draft the complaint, and contributing to our litigation strategy.” 

“The San Francisco flavored tobacco and e-cigarette bans demonstrate local government leadership and innovation in response to a pressing public health crisis,” commented Merino. “It’s been an honor to work under the supervision of the deputy city attorneys to contribute to these efforts.”

recent report from researchers at UC San Diego suggests that as California and local jurisdictions have taken action to prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco products and enforced these laws against brick-and-mortar retailers, online sales of flavored tobacco products have increased. Enforcing these laws against online retailers, as San Francisco is doing in this lawsuit, is key to protecting youth from these dangerous products.