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Companies with Popular Brands Fight to Keep Names off E-Cigarettes

Update Date: May 26, 2014 03:28 PM EDT

Over the past few years, the popularity of using e-cigarettes has soared. Even though the safety of e-cigarettes is still unclear, many people continue purchase them assuming that they are a safe alternative to smoking. One method that e-cigarette companies do in order to attract consumers is to create appealing flavors and use popular children's brands, such as Thin Mint, Tootsie Roll and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Now, these companies want their names off of e-cigarettes.

According to HuffPost, companies such as General Mills Inc., the Girl Scouts of the USA and Tootsie Roll Industries Inc. have written cease-and-desist letters demanding e-cigarette manufacturers to stop using their names when describing their flavored nicotine products. The companies have expressed their plans to take further legal action if the manufacturers do not comply.

"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.

Ellen Gordon, president and chief operating officer of Tootsie Roll Industries Inc., added, "We're family oriented. A lot of kids eat our products, we have many adults also, but our big concern is we have to protect the trademark. When you have well-known trademarks, one of your responsibilities is to protect [them] because it's been such a big investment over the years."

The e-cigarette industry, which is made up of around 1,500 different makers within this country alone, has recently gotten more attention. Just last year, sales almost reached the two billion mark. Due to the rising interest in e-cigarette products, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced last month that it plans on regulating the products to a certain extent. However, the agency's plans did not include regulating candy or fruit flavors, which are arguably the most appealing for younger people. The lack of supervision over the flavors and their names has undoubtedly prompted these companies to take action.

"As companies go through their maturity process of going from being a wild entrepreneur to starting to establish real corporate ethics and product stewardship, it's something that we're going to continue to see," Linc Williams, board member of the American E-liquid Manufacturing Standards Association and an executive at NicVape Inc., said. "Unfortunately it's not going to change unless companies come in and assert their intellectual property."

Williams added that NicVape Inc. will change the names of their liquids so that they will no longer be tied to popular children's brands. However, not all companies might be willing to follow suit.

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