Federal regulators have moved to discipline e-cigarette companies for inappropriately promoting their flavored nicotine formulas by using so-called influencers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites. According to an NPR news report, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has sent warning letters to four companies that used paid social media influencers to market nicotine solutions to their online followers including flavors such as Watermelon Patch and Strawberry Kiwi.
E-cigarettes are electronic devices that work by heating a flavored nicotine solution into an inhalable aerosol. While the e-cigarette companies have been marketing these products as a “cool,” “less harmful” product than traditional cigarettes, study after study has found that these products can cause serious health issues including lung damage and heart disease. Studies have also shown that nicotine harms developing brains.
The posts on social media did not include a mandatory warning that the vaping liquids contain nicotine, an additive. The FDA sent the letters to four companies – Solace Vapor, Hype City Vapors, Humble Juice Co. and Artist Liquid Labs. Facebook prohibits e-cigarette ads even if it comes with a warning and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been putting pressure on social media influences, people with many social media followers who promote products and services, to disclose when they are getting paid to endorse something.
The action comes as FDA and other government agencies are trying to reverse what they call an “epidemic” of e-cigarette use, particularly among teenagers. Research has consistently linked this trend to a surge in online videos, photos and other posts about vaping including those generated by companies, advertising agencies and paid influencers.
Why This Crackdown is Necessary
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) documents an 80 percent increase in vaping by teens just last year with one in five high school students reporting that they used the devices in the previous month. The FDA also recently cracked down on Juul, which has been dominating the e-cigarette market. Following FDA scrutiny, Juul shut down its Facebook and Instagram accounts in November and vowed to stop marketing its products to youth.
It is crucial that the government requires manufacturers and retailers to include the required health warnings about nicotine’s addictive properties on the products and in advertisements, especially on social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram that are popular with teens. Our product defect attorneys have maintained that e-cigarette companies have made billions of dollars in profits by marketing their products through social media to our young people. We have a new generation of nicotine addicts and it’s a health crisis we will need to deal with in the future.