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Tobacco

Social Media Becomes New Focus for FDA on Vaping

Agency issues warning letters to companies for using ‘influencers’
Photograph: Shutterstock

WASHINGTON The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have issued warning letters to four firms that manufacture, advertise and offer for sale or distribution several flavored e-liquid products for violations related to online posts by social-media influencers on each company’s behalf, the agencies said in a joint statement.

Among the violations was the failure to include the required nicotine warning statement within the message, the agencies said.

“Years of progress to combat youth use of tobacco is now threatened by an epidemic of e-cigarette use by kids, and unfortunately research shows many youth are mistaken or unaware of the risks and the presence of nicotine in e-cigarettes,” said Ned Sharpless, acting FDA commissioner. “That’s why 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.”

Social-media influencers are individuals with a large number of online followers who often promote products on behalf of certain brands or companies, the agencies said. Influencers use social-media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The companies issued letters June 7 were Solace Technologies, Los Angeles; Hype City Vapors, Los Angeles; Humble Juice Co., Thousand Oaks, Calif.; and Artist Liquids Laboratories, Los Angeles, which the agencies said posted content touting the flavored e-liquid products or recommending their social-media followers try the products without including the required nicotine warning statement.

“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 products subject to the warning letters are:

  • 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.
  • 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.

The FDA and the FTC have requested responses from each of the companies within 15 working days. The companies are directed to inform each agency of the specific actions taken to address each agency’s concerns. The warning letters also state that failure to correct violations may result in further action such as seizure or injunction.

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