S.D. city attorney sues two retail chains — one with a La Jolla location — alleging sale of flavored tobacco

San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott
San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott, pictured in April, has announced a lawsuit against Keg ‘N Bottle and Payless Smoke Shop.
(Adriana Heldiz / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The lawsuit was filed against Keg ‘N Bottle and Payless Smoke Shop on allegations of selling banned products to undercover investigators.


A retail chain that has a location in La Jolla is one of two businesses the San Diego city attorney’s office is suing on allegations of violating state and local laws banning the sale of flavored tobacco products.

A lawsuit filed in Superior Court in San Diego accuses Payless Smoke Shop and Keg ‘N Bottle of selling flavored tobacco products — namely e-cigarettes — to undercover investigators several times since May, according to an announcement this week by City Attorney Mara Elliott.

The owners of the chains did not respond to requests for comment.

Keg ‘N Bottle operates six stores in San Diego, including one at 1030 Torrey Pines Road in La Jolla.

Payless Smoke Shop runs three San Diego locations.

The lawsuit alleges that in one incident, a clerk at a Keg ‘N Bottle store asked an undercover investigator to hide the product, admitting it was illegal to sell it.

The suit contends the sale of flavored tobacco amounts to unlawful and unfair business practices under state law, giving the two chains an advantage over law-abiding competitors.

Elliott’s office is seeking penalties and compliance with the laws.

“As a mother and a prosecutor, I am appalled by the tactics of the tobacco industry, which continues to manufacture and advertise deadly products with kid-friendly flavors like cotton candy, bubblegum and a wide range of fruits,” Elliott said in a statement.

The stores sometimes make money “off the backs of children, and that’s very disturbing,” she added in an interview.

The San Diego City Council approved a ban on the sale of flavored tobacco in April 2022, with enforcement delayed until January. In November, state voters passed Proposition 31, which upheld a 2020 ban. That ban took effect in December.

Councilwoman Marni von Wilpert, who pushed for the city ban, said the lawsuit is a “big first step” for San Diego.

“I applaud [the] action by the city attorney ... in our fight to keep these poisonous nicotine products out of communities and especially out of the hands of our children,” von Wilpert said.

Elliott said a tip led to the undercover investigation. She asked that tips and complaints about violations of local and state laws be emailed to

— La Jolla Light staff contributed to this report.