The Alameda County District Attorney's Office has filed a lawsuit against a Livermore-based business for allegedly selling illegal flavored tobacco and synthetic cannabis products to people under the age of 21.
The DA's office has obtained a temporary restraining order against Apollo Future Technology -- which does business as Apollo E-cigs -- following a multi-agency investigation that also included the Livermore Police Department, California's Department of Public Health and California's Department of Tax and Fee Administration.
The court's order, issued after briefing and legal argument, bars Apollo Future Technology from selling flavored tobacco products or synthetic cannabis products locally and online pending the resolution of a preliminary injunction hearing, which is set for next Thursday (Sept. 21), according to a statement from the DA's office.
"The allegations set forth in our public complaint are that the defendants -- which are collectively under the name of Apollo Future Technology Corporation and a number of related corporate entities -- that they used a warehouse in Livermore as their base of operations to sell banned flavored tobacco products, predominantly vapes and vape juice, to individuals under the age of 21," DA Pamela Price said during a press conference held in Livermore on Sept. 6.
"The issue of minors vaping and being essentially enticed by flavored tobacco products is a very sensitive one in this community," Price said, adding that her office was more than happy to participate in the investigation in an effort to shut down the illegal activity.
The lawsuit alleges that the company sold the products through their website without verifying purchasers' ages as required by law, illegally shipped their flavored tobacco products through the public mail without complying with the state's delivery requirements, and manufactured and sold thousands of synthetic cannabis products in packaging that falsely claim the products are legal, natural industrial hemp products containing less than 0.3% THC.
Tracie Christmas, the director of student services for the Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District (LVJUSD), also shared insights during the press conference about the impacts of these products on students.
"The U.S. Surgeon General declared youth vaping a nationwide epidemic in 2018 and Livermore has been no exception," Christmas said. "Though tobacco products and electronic vaping devices are illegal for children, unconcerned (retailers) have brazenly sold them to our youth. Some of these retailers are located just down the street," she added.
She said the district has "seen the harm caused by these products to our students -- to their mental and physical health and their academic performance and behavior."
Christmas also noted that LVJUSD has seen students as young as fifth grade with tobacco products in their possession and using them at school. "There are vape pens that look like highlighters -- a highlighter that a student should be using in school that help students conceal their use at school," she said.
The investigation was initially triggered after LVJUSD officials discovered that products from the Apollo store were appearing on school campuses throughout the city, according to deputy district attorney Alexandra Grayner. She said the bulk of the formal investigation started in December 2022 but the monitoring of school grounds by district officials began as early as 2020.
In addition to the negative impacts on youth, Apollo's illegal operations also unlawfully compete with the legal, licensed cannabis industry, according to the DA's office.
Zoe Schreiber is the director of compliance for the Garden of Eden dispensaries which has a location in Livermore on the Darcie Kent Vineyards property. Schreiber thanked the law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation of Apollo for ensuring that "compliant, licensed actors are supported in their operations."
"Doing the right thing in enforcement on illicit actors further enhances the dedicated licensed operators that provide public health resources and safety to the community," she said.