Federal agencies warn vaping companies about social media ads that don’t contain a nicotine warning
June 07, 2019
The Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent four warning letters Friday to firms that make and market flavored e-liquid products that are used in vaping. The letters cite postings by influencers on social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter that endorse the companies’ products, without any warnings that the products contain nicotine, an addictive chemical.
The FDA determined that the e-liquids are misbranded because the social media posts don’t include the nicotine warning, which has been required since August 2018.
Given the significant risk of addiction, the failure to disclose the presence of and risks associated with nicotine raised concerns that the social media postings could violate the FTC Act, the agency said.
The FTC also reminded the companies that social media influencers should clearly disclose their relationships to the brands when promoting or endorsing products through social media. The FTC’s Endorsement Guides require that if there’s a connection between an endorser and an advertiser, that connection should be clearly stated unless it already is clear in the communication.
“These letters are a reminder that companies who use social media influencers to promote their products must comply with all applicable advertising requirements,” said Andrew Smith, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Moreover, ads must disclose material health or safety risks — in this case, the fact that nicotine is highly addictive.”
The companies receiving the letters are Solace Technologies, Hype City Vapors, Humble Juice Co., and Artist Liquids Laboratories.
The FTC urged the companies to review their marketing, including endorsements by social media influencers, to ensure that appropriate disclosures are made about the health risks of nicotine and any connections with their social media influencers. The FTC also suggested that if the companies have a social media policy, they should evaluate how it applies to the posts identified in the letters and to posts by other endorsers. If the companies don’t have a written social media policy, the FTC recommended that they consider creating one and carrying it out.
The joint FTC/FDA letters instruct the companies to notify the FTC within 15 days about actions taken to address the FTC’s concerns.
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