WASHINGTON (AP) — Vaping companies will be subject to disciplinary action by U.S. regulators for inappropriately promoting their flavored nicotine formulas through so-called influencers on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites.
The Food and Drug Administration, joined by the Federal Trade Commission, sent out warning letters to the following companies: Solace Vapor, Hype City Vapors, Humble Juice Co. and Artist Liquid Labs. The four companies used paid social media influencers to pitch nicotine solutions to their online followers, including flavors like Watermelon Patch and Strawberry Kiwi. The posts did not include a mandatory warning that the vaping liquids contain nicotine, which is addictive.
The companies did not immediately return calls and emails seeking comment Friday morning.
E-cigarette ads, even those with warnings on them, are prohibited on Facebook. The FTC has also been pressuring influencers — people with many social media followers who promote products and services — to disclose when they are being paid to endorse something.
The FDA and other government agencies have been struggling to reverse what they call an epidemic of underage e-cigarette use. The trend has been linked to a surge in online videos, photos, and other posts about vaping, some of them generated by companies, advertising agencies and paid influencers.
Government figures showed nearly an 80 percent jump in vaping by teens last year, with 1 in 5 high school students admitting to using the devices in the previous month.
Health experts warn that nicotine can harm developing brains and recent research shows many teenagers are unaware they are consuming the addictive chemical when they vape.
Acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless said in a statement, “it is 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.”