Feds warn vaping companies over online marketing

State News

(CBS News) — The Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration are warning four makers of “e-liquids,” which are used in vaping, over using social media influencers to promote their products without including notices about the risks of nicotine.

The FTC flagged the marketing posts, which appear on platforms including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, for their “failure to disclose material health or safety risks in advertising,” the agency said in a statement. The FDA said the social influencer posts “misbrand” so-called e-liquid products because they failed to include a required federal warning that an item contains nicotine.

The four companies are Solace TechnologiesHype City VaporsHumble Juice, and Artist Liquids Laboratories. The companies did not immediately respond to request for comment. 

“It’s critical we ensure manufacturers, retailers and others are including the required health warning about nicotine’s addictive properties on packages and advertisements – especially on social media platforms popular with kids,” acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless said in a statement.

Advertisements for tobacco products have long been banned on television and in magazines, and most social media platforms ban similar ads. But tobacco and e-cigarette manufacturers circumvent restrictions through influencer marketing. Since August of last year, these online posts featuring e-liquid products have been required to include nicotine notices.

Facebook bars e-cigarette ads even with warnings. The FTC warning to the e-liquid makers also urged paid influencers to clearly disclose relationships with brands when endorsing products in posts. It also advised the targeted companies to adhere to applicable advertising restrictions.    

Government data showed a nearly 80 percent jump in vaping by teens last year, with 1 in 5 high school students reporting that they used the devices in the previous month, according to The Associated Press.

The federal crackdown comes after Reuters last month reported that cigarette maker Philip Morris International promoted tobacco products with young-looking influencers. It prompted 100 public health organizations to write a letter calling on technology companies to revise their policies around the marketing of cigarettes and related products. 

Tobacco companies “promote their products on social media because they know it is the gateway to young people all over the world,” the groups assert. “Indeed, the tobacco industry’s entire business model depends on addicting the next generation of tobacco users to its products.”

Phillip Morris suspended the social media campaign after Reuters made inquiries into the marketing push. The company cited internal “marketing standards” that prohibit it from promoting tobacco products using “models who are or appear to be under the age of 25.”

“Whilst the influencer in question is a legal age adult smoker, she is under 25, and our guidance called for influencers to be 25+ years of age. This was a clear breach of that guidance,” Phillip Morris International told Reuters in a statement. 

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