RICHMOND, Va. — Owners of brands geared toward children of all ages are battling to keep notable names like Thin Mint, Tootsie Roll and Cinnamon Toast Crunch off the flavored nicotine used in electronic cigarettes.
Now the owners of those trademarks are fighting back to make sure their brands aren’t being used to sell an addictive drug or make it appealing to to children.
General Mills Inc., the Girl Scouts of the USA and Tootsie Roll Industries Inc. are among several companies that have sent cease-and-desist letters to makers of the liquid nicotine demanding they stop using the brands and may take further legal action if necessary.
The actions highlight the debate about the array of flavors available for the battery-powered devices that heat a liquid nicotine solution, creating vapor that users inhale. The Food and Drug Administration last month proposed regulating electronic cigarettes but didn’t immediately ban on fruit or candy flavors, which are barred for use in regular cigarettes because of the worry that the flavors are used to appeal to children.
It’s growing pains for the industry that reached nearly $2 billion in sales last year in the face of looming regulation. E-cigarette users say the devices address both the addictive and behavioral aspects of smoking without the thousands of chemicals found in regular cigarettes.
There are about 1,500 e-liquid makers in the U.S. and countless others abroad selling vials of nicotine from traditional tobacco to cherry cola on the Internet and in retail stores, often featuring photos of the popular treats. Using the brand name like Thin Mint or Fireball conjures up a very specific flavor in buyers’ minds, in a way that just “mint chocolate” or “cinnamon” doesn’t.
“Using the Thin Mint name — which is synonymous with Girl Scouts and everything we do to enrich the lives of girls — to market e-cigarettes to youth is deceitful and shameless,” Girl Scouts spokeswoman Kelly Parisi said in a statement.