Hundreds of Indiana businesses busted for selling vaping liquid to kids

(Shutterstock / hurricanehank)

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — Federal investigators are cracking down on the sale of vaping products to children, and hundreds of Indiana businesses have been cited during undercover inspections.

A review of FDA data obtained by 13 Investigates shows FDA investigators have issued 267 violation notices to Indiana retailers that sold E-liquid products to minors in 2018 and 2019.

The violation notices include 208 warning letters issued to stores accused of selling vaping supplies to kids for the first time, as well as 59 civil money penalties sent to retailers cited for repeat violations.

Both federal and Indiana law prohibit the sale of tobacco products, including vaping liquids, to anyone under 18 years old. Retailers are required to check the photo identifications of customers to verify their legal age prior to a sale.

Most of the violations took place at vape shops, gas stations and convenience stores – the most popular retail locations for teens to purchase vaping products. Circle K, Citgo, Marathon, Kroger, Marathon, Meijer, Low Bob’s, Obadiah’s, Dollar General and Walmart are among dozens of businesses named in the notices.

During undercover inspections, FDA inspectors found the vape products sold to minors in 84 different cities and towns across Indiana. They issued the largest number of violations to retailers in Indianapolis (70), Fort Wayne (26), Mishawaka (11) and New Albany (10). Stores in Muncie (8), Anderson (6), Bloomington (6), Carmel (3), Fishers (3), Greenwood (2) and Mooresville (2) are among many other central Indiana retailers to receive violation letters, as well.

While the FDA issues only a warning for first-time violations, penalties quickly escalate for repeat offenses. A second violation within 12 months costs retailers $285, with a third and fourth violation within a 24-month period costing $570 and $2,282 respectively.

The FDA issued its harshest possible fine against a gas station convenience store located south of Fort Wayne. The Country Corner Deli Marathon in Monroe, Ind., received a $11,410 fine late last year after investigators cited the business for illegally selling vaping and tobacco products to minors for a fourth time in less than 16 months. During those inspections, FDA inspectors found the store violated seven regulations.

The federal agency can take even tougher action against repeat violators that have five or more repeat violations within a 3-year period by issuing an order that prohibits them from selling tobacco and vaping products.