The Food and Drug Administration is moving to punish vaping firms for improperly marketing their flavored nicotine products through key influencers on social media platforms such as Twitter or Facebook.
On Friday, the agency sent 4 warning letters to firms which paid influencers to promote nicotine products on their social sites, including common flavors like strawberry, kiwi, or watermelon.
The letters did not include a compulsory warning that vaping liquids have additive nicotine. Cooperated with the Federal Trade Commission, the FDA warned four companies, including Artist Liquid Labs, Humble Juice Company, Hype City Vapors, and Solace Vapor. Those firms didn’t return emails and calls seeking comment immediately.
Facebook bans e-cigarette advertisements with warnings, while the FTC has been pushing online influencers, who have many followers and often promote services or products, to inform when they are paid to promote something.
The action is taken place when many government agencies are struggling to reverse the effects of underaged e-cigarette use. Many studies have associated this trend with an increase in online posts, photos, and videos about vaping, which are mainly created by paid influencers, advertising agencies, and firms.
It is estimated that the number of teenagers who vape has increased up to 80% over the last year, with 20% high school students said that they smoked in the last month.
E-cigarettes often heat a nicotine mixture with flavors into inhalable aerosols. They are mostly considered less harmful than other paper-and-tobacco cigarettes. However, many health experts and doctors warn that the high levels of nicotine could slow down the development of brains, especially in teenagers as they are unaware of consuming addictive substances.
“It is important we guarantee retailers, manufacturers, and distributors include the compulsory health warnings about addictive components of nicotine on ads and packages, particularly on social media sites popular with children,” said Ned Sharpless – FDA Commissioner.
The letters don’t mention Juul, the leader of the e-cigarette market in the US. This Silicon Valley startup is often seen as the pioneer which leads to a surge in vaping with early viral marketing campaigns. Due to recent intense scrutiny, Juul closed its Instagram and Facebook accounts and repositioned its brand to focus on old adults who want to quit cigarettes.
In response to a few written questions from some Senate lawmakers, Juul claimed in April that the company does not cooperate with any social media influencers at the time being.