Nicotine’s addictive qualities and proper education of such are well-known throughout the vaping community, however some influencers didn’t follow required directions while promoting e-liquids through social media. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent warning letters to four companies this week, citing them — via influencers they were using on social media — for mishandling nicotine’s warnings.
Facebook, Instagram and Twitter were the three platforms specifically mentioned in the promotions, where the paid influencers did not disclose nicotine’s risks while promoting the mentioned e-liquids. The warning letters said that the specific posts, which were flagged had a “failure to disclose material health or safety risks in advertising," the agency said in a statement to CBS news. The FDA said the posts “misbranded” the products through lack of federal warnings regarding e-liquids that contain nicotine. The required warning states: “WARNING: This product contains nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive chemical.” The FTC joined the FDA on the warning letters under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, which prohibits unfair or deceptive advertising.
The companies cited were e-liquid manufacturers Solace Technologies, Hype City Vapors, Humble Juice and Artist Liquids Laboratories. The warning also recommended that influencers should “clearly disclose relationships with brands when endorsing products in posts.”
“These letters are a reminder that companies who use social media influencers to promote their products must comply with all applicable advertising requirements,” Andrew Smith, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. “Moreover, ads must disclose material health or safety risks – in this case, the fact that nicotine is highly addictive.”
The specific products called out in the FDA/FTC letters include: Solace Black Sea Salt Blueberry, Solace Black Tropical Freeze, Solace Salts Peach, Solace Salts Strawberry, and Solace Salts Dragon Fruit Menthol; Hype City Vapors Mango Candy and Hype City Vapors Berry Lemonade; HMBL SALT Mango Pineapple, HMBL SALT Blue Blood High, HMBL SALT Strawberry Kiwi, HMBL SALT Apple Jay Jay, HMBL SALT 99 Pink Balloons, and HMBL SALT Watermelon Patch; and Artist Liquids Peanut Butter Rocket Nicotine Salt, Artist Liquids Nice Melons Nicotine Salt, Artist Liquids Cotton Cookies Nicotine Salt, Artist Liquids Strawberry Clouds Nicotine Salt, and Artist Liquids Blue Label Nicotine Salt.
Ned Sharpless, acting FDA commissioner since Scott Gottlieb’s departure, told CBS News in a statement: "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. We appreciate the FTC joining us on these and other actions to protect youth from the dangers of nicotine and tobacco products.”
While tobacco product ads are banned on television, magazines and some social media platforms (Facebook bans e-cigarette ads altogether), e-cigarette manufacturers do use influencer marketing to help promote products. However, the FDA made the nicotine warning requirement effective last August.Both regulatory organizations are requiring responses from the four companies within 15 business days. In the responses, the companies are asked to response with an action plan of addressing the concern, and failure to do so may result in seizure or injunction.