Ridgefield Mobil fined for selling vapes to underage youth
Ridgefield Mobil was one of 1,300 retailers of vapes and e-cigarettes targeted in a nationwide sting by the Food and Drug Administration that aimed to crackdown on the sale of the devices to underage users.
The gas station on Danbury Road was issued a fine of $559 from the agency on April 24, according to a list of retailers published on the FDA’s website.
The efforts were part of a sting conducted against retailers of the popular JUUL device in the spring, a spokesperson for the FDA told The Press.
Separately, on Sept. 12 the agency said it had issued 1,300 additional fines and warning letters in a “nationwide, undercover blitz of brick-and-mortar and online stores this summer” that were suspected of selling tobacco products to kids
Todd Schoenherr, one of the Mobil’s co-owners, told The Press that the sale involved an e-cigarette device but that he did not recall the specific brand. The employee involved is no longer working there, Schoenherr said. He said the business gives “constant reminders” to their employees to check the ID of anyone who appears under the age of 30.
Schoenherr said that he did not remember how much he paid for the fine, and that he did not know that it had been part of a larger, FDA operation.
“We take it seriously,” said Schoenherr, a Ridgefield resident and parent of three children.
Schoenherr said that he wouldn’t want his kids to be able to get their hands on e-cigarettes.
“We do our best to deny any sale to minors, but obviously a mistake happened,” he said.
The use of vapes among teens at the high school — particularly JUULs, a popular brand of vapes — has exploded in popularity over the past few years, according to previous reporting by The Press.
According to the notice issued by the FDA, on two separate occasions minors working undercover for the agency were able to purchase e-cigarette products. One bought a JUUL brand “cool cucumber” flavor e-liquid at 9:54 a.m. on April 9, and another bought a Blu brand “cherry crush” e-liquid at 10:18 a.m. on March 7, 2017.
The fines and warning letters come after officials in schools around the nation have raised alarm about the growing number of youths using, and in many cases becoming addicted to, Juuls and other vapes.
“We see clear signs that youth use of electronic cigarettes has reached an epidemic proportion,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb on Sept. 12.
“I believe certain flavors are one of the principal drivers of the youth appeal of these products. While we remain committed to advancing policies that promote the potential of e-cigarettes to help adult smokers move away from combustible cigarettes, that work can’t come at the expense of kids,” he said.
The agency said that the “vast majority” of the warning letters and fines were from sales of five manufacturers of e-cigarettes — Vuse, Blu, JUUL, MarkTen XL, and Logic. Between them, those brands make up 97% of the market for vape and e-cigarettes, the agency said.
The FDA said it also sent letters to 12 online retailers of vape and e-cigarette products, pushing the sellers to remove marketing that made the products appeal to kids. The agency is forcing JUUL labs and other manufacturers to hand over documents on the high use of their products among minors.
The agency also issued fines or letters to seven other stores in Connecticut, including shops in Waterbury, Hartford, Plainfield, Lisbon, Vernon, and West Hartford.
Capt. Jeff Kreitz of the Ridgefield Police said that local police were not involved in the operation.