A federal court today ordered the distributor of “Smoke Away” products to pay $7,146,046 in consumer redress and a $500,000 civil penalty to resolve alleged violations of the Opioid Addiction Recovery Fraud Prevention Act of 2018 and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Act in connection with the marketing and sale of Smoke Away products as a quick, effective, and easy way to quit smoking.
According to the complaint, Michael J. Connors and several of his companies, ProTouch Marketing LLC, doing business as Smart Day Supplements, Woodford Hills LLC, Oakhill Research LLC, Evergreen Marketing LLC, Sterling Health LLC, and Clara Vista Media LLC made misleading and unsubstantiated advertising claims on websites and social media platforms about the effectiveness of Smoke Away tablets, pellets, and homeopathic sprays. According to the complaint, the defendants claimed that Smoke Away products eliminate nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms and enable consumers to quit smoking quickly, easily, and permanently. The complaint alleged these advertising claims were misleading and unlawful because they were not supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence.
The complaint also alleged that this was not the first time the Federal Trade Commission challenged defendant Connors’ advertising of Smoke Away products. In 2005, the Commission entered into a settlement agreement with Connors and one of his then-existing companies to settle allegations concerning the advertising of Smoke Away products. The complaint alleged that Connors nevertheless continued to violate the FTC Act with unsubstantiated health claims about Smoke Away products.
“The Justice Department will vigorously enforce laws intended to stop deceptive advertisers — and, in particular, recidivists — from preying on consumers battling addiction,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department's Civil Division. “The department is committed to taking action to ensure consumers have the information they need to make decisions about their health and wellness.”
“Congress gave us strong tools to fight fraud targeting people suffering from addiction, and that is exactly what we are doing with this record-setting monetary judgment and industry ban,” said Director Samuel Levine of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Those struggling with alcohol, tobacco, or drugs deserve help and support, not phony promises, and we will continue to hold accountable those who prey on addiction sufferers.”
In addition to the monetary judgment and civil penalty, the stipulated order entered by the court today prohibits defendants from engaging in the advertising, marketing, promoting, offering for sale, selling, or distribution of any substance use disorder treatment product or service, including any smoking cessation product or service. The order also prohibits defendants from making unsubstantiated claims in the future and clarifies the amount of substantiation needed for future health claims. Lastly, the order imposes two decades of recordkeeping and reporting obligations to ensure defendants’ future compliance with the FTC Act and the Opioid Addiction Recovery Fraud Prevention Act.
This matter is being handled by Trial Attorney Mary M. Englehart of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch and Assistant U.S. Attorney Lacy R. Harwell for the Middle District of Florida. Rafael Reyneri and Shira Modell represent the FTC.
For more information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts, visit its website at www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch. For more information about the FTC, visit its website at www.FTC.gov.