SAN DIEGO — San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott is suing two local businesses who allegedly continued the sale of flavored tobacco products after the state banned their distribution.
The lawsuit accuses Keg n Bottle and Payless Smoke Shop of selling the illegal products repeatedly between May and August of this year.
“I sent investigators into these retail establishments and they made purchases of products that were not supposed to be on the shelves,” Elliott said. “It didn’t happen once, it happened many times, and that happened over the course of several months.”
As of Jan. 1, 2023, the sale of flavored tobacco products has been outlawed both in California and the city of San Diego, largely due to how the items attract teens to begin e-cigarette use.
Keg N Bottle’s owner, Tony Konja, provided FOX 5 the following statement:
“Keg N bottle is a family run business that has grown to 12 locations by serving San Diego County since 1981 and being committed to complying with all laws, regulations, and serving the communities we are located in. After several calls to the District Attorney’s office … we were informed that two locations out of our 12 locations allegedly sold flavored tobacco products to (nonminor) undercover agents. We are investigating these allegations. We assured the City Attorney’s Office we will cooperate with them in resolving this issue!”
If the court finds the businesses broke the law, they could face violations of up to $2,500 for each illegal sale. The fines may double, if they’re found in violation of both state and city law.
Elliott says the next step in the lawsuit will be discovery, which will require the shops to turn over all sales records.
“We will look at their records to determine how many times they have sold a prohibited product and then we do the math,” Elliott said.
Though Payless Smoke Shop did not reply for comment about the suit, FOX 5 spoke with employees at both the stores who said they had no knowledge of the products being sold.