Out-of-state advertisers flooded a Cedar Hills email service for children with thousands of messages promoting smoking cigarettes, according to a multimillion dollar lawsuit filed in federal court.
Zoobuh, which promotes itself as providing safe email for kids, claims an Arizona company named Smoke Freely spammed its servers with at least 16,188 emails since January touting its electronic or e-cigarettes. The lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction to stop the messages.
The company contends the emails violate the federal CAN-SPAM Act because they contain misleading or false information in the subject line. In addition, the messages failed to include a conspicuous notice that they are advertisements and a clear opt-out link from receiving them in the future, according to the suit filed in U.S. District Court last Friday.
Zoobuh seeks $225 per violation of six sections of federal law and asks for those damages to be tripled, bringing the amount sought to nearly $11 million.
In the lawsuit, Zoobuh says the emails caused it to upgrade its server capacity, buy spam-filtering software and experience server crashes. The company, which states that nearly all of its users are under age 18, also has had to deal with complaints and lost customers, the suit says.
Zoobuh alleges Smoke Freely, which sells a brand of e- cigarette called Prado, hired several marketing firms to pitch its products, all of which are named in the suit.
Prado e-cigarettes are sold as a smokeless, battery- powered alternative to traditional cigarettes, not as a smoking cigarettes cessation device. The e-cigs don't contain cigarettes but do contain nicotine. The company warns potential users they must be of legal smoking cigarettes age and that the products are not intended for children.
In 2010, the Utah Legislature made it a misdemeanor to provide e-cigarettes to anyone under age 19. It also made it illegal for those 18 and under to buy or possess them.