City sting operation finds 27 online retailers selling e-cigs, vape products to minors

With names like Mango Bomb and Melon Twist, it sounds like candy.

But those are actually the names of nicotine e-liquids being sold online for vaping and e-cigarettes.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel says it's part of a campaign to hook kids and on Tuesday, he announced the city is suing more than two dozen online retailers.

"The health of Chicago's children is not for sale,” Mayor Emanuel said.

The city is filing lawsuits against 27 online retailers which sold nicotine products to an 18-year-old decoy working for the city, mailing the products to Chicago addresses.

Some, but not all of those online retailers, ask users to click a button saying they're 18 or older.

In Chicago, you have to be 21 to buy tobacco.

"Through these sting operations we found how easy it is for the tobacco industry, and how easy they're making it for youth to get their hands on tobacco and e-cigarettes,” said Rosa Escareno, Commissioner of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.

Mayor Emanuel believes the e-cig and vaping supplies are being packaged in bright colors and bold names to attract kids.

"Big tobacco's intention is to hook teenage kids on these products early so they become tobacco users throughout their lives,” Mayor Emanuel said.

The city is also suing four brick and mortar stores, including a tobacco shop in Lincoln Park, for selling e-cigs to minors as part of the sting operation.

After years of historically low levels, the use of nicotine products by high school students has recently nearly doubled to 21-percent.

"E-cigarette use and vaping among young people threatens to erase all the progress we've made in reducing tobacco use and lifelong addiction among children,” said Dr. Julie Morita, Commissioner of Chicago Department of Public Health.

The clerk at the store in Lincoln Park -- “Tobbaconist and Vape” -- admits they were recently charged with selling an e-cigarette to a minor. But says the clerk who did that has since been fired.