A $50,000 civil judgment was announced today against nitrous oxide distributor United Brands Products Design, Development and Marketing, Inc. (United Brands) of South San Francisco, according to San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.
The civil complaint alleges that United Brands, which does business using the brand name Whip-It!, engaged in illegal business practices by selling nitrous oxide cartridges via its online retail store without verifying the purchaser was not a minor or notifying consumers of the mandated California health and safety warnings.
The non-medical, recreational use of nitrous oxide is commonly known by the slang terms hippie crack, NOS, NOX and whip-its, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney’s office, which brought the consumer protection civil action along with the office of San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan. Nitrous oxide is recognized as a dangerous and hazardous oxidizing gas that depresses the central nervous system when inhaled. It has been known to cause drowsiness, dizziness and suffocation and its recreational use has been regulated in California since 2015 by Penal Code section 381e.
In 2018, Homeland Security Investigations launched an investigation into the unlawful sale and distribution of nitrous oxide in San Diego County and United Brands was identified a distributor of nitrous oxide to county smoke shops. Additional online investigation found that the purchaser’s age was never determined prior to the purchase, while in California, the legal age to buy nitrous oxide is 18 years old due to potential abuse of the gas. The investigation also revealed that mandated health and safety warnings were also not provided to consumers.
The complaint was filed in the San Mateo County Superior Court and the stipulated judgment resolving the case was filed on Tuesday. Per the judgment, United Brands must comply with the age verification and disclosure requirements, as well as pay $50,000 in civil penalties.
United Brands cooperated in the resolution of the case, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney’s office.