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Tootsie Roll e-cigarettes? Not so fast, makers told

RICHMOND — Owners of brands geared toward children are battling to keep notable names like Thin Mint, Tootsie Roll, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch off the flavored nicotine used in electronic cigarettes.

The owners of those trademarks are fighting to make sure their brands aren’t used to sell an addictive drug or make it appealing to children.

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General Mills Inc., the Girl Scouts, and Tootsie Roll Industries Inc. are among companies that have sent cease-and-desist letters to makers of liquid nicotine, demanding that they stop using the brands and threatening legal action.

Last month, the Food and Drug Administration proposed regulating electronic cigarettes but did not ban fruit or candy flavors, which are barred for use in regular cigarettes because of the worry that the flavors appeal to children.

Battery-powered e-cigarettes heat liquid nicotine, creating vapor that users inhale. There are about 1,500 e-liquid makers in the United States and countless others abroad. Using a brand name like Thin Mint or Fireball conjures up a specific flavor in buyers’ minds, in a way that just ‘‘mint chocolate’’ or ‘‘cinnamon’’ doesn’t, marketing specialists say.

‘‘As companies go through their maturity process of going from being a wild entrepreneur to starting to establish real corporate ethics and product stewardship, it’s something that we’re going to continue to see,’’ said Linc Williams, an executive at NicVape Inc., which produces liquid nicotine.

He said his company is renaming many of its liquids with names that won’t be associated with well-known brands.

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