Nitrous oxide distributor to pay civil fine for unlawful business practices

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A $50,000 civil judgment was announced Wednesday against a nitrous oxide distributor for failing to verify its products were not sold to minors and failing to provide state-mandated health and safety warnings, according to the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.

United Brands Products Design, Development and Marketing Inc., based in San Francisco, will pay the civil penalties and comply with age verification and disclosure requirements, stemming from a judgment entered on Monday in San Mateo County Superior Court, the DA’s Office said.

The company, which does business under the brand name Whip-It!, sold nitrous oxide cartridges on its website without verifying that buyers were not underage and without providing health and safety warnings mandated by California law.

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said those protections are necessary, as nitrous oxide products are sometimes abused for recreational drug use.

“The DA’s Consumer Protection Unit safeguards the health of all of us in San Diego County, and this specific case goes further, protecting kids who might be tempted to use this dangerous gas to get a cheap high,” Stephan said. “The judgment will ensure this company isn’t selling to children and should alert parents who might not be familiar with the recreational use of nitrous oxide.”

Homeland Security Investigations — an arm of the Department of Homeland Security that assists local jurisdictions — began investigating the unlawful sale and distribution of nitrous oxide in San Diego County two years ago, the DA’s Office said, and United Brands was identified as a distributor of nitrous oxide to county smoke shops.

A consumer protection civil action was later brought against the company by San Diego County prosecutors and the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office. United Brands cooperated in reaching the case’s resolution, prosecutors said.

“Nitrous oxide is a dangerous inhalant when used for recreational purposes, and we want to ensure the parents and the general public are aware that its abuse can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening,” said Cardell T. Morant, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations. “Today’s judgment demonstrates the commitment of HIS, the District Attorney’s office, and our law enforcement partners to investigating and prosecuting companies that put their own profits above the health and safety of our communities.”

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