FDA In Brief: FDA Requires Four E-Cigarette Brands to Provide Critical Information on Social Media Practices
March 17, 2021
The following quote is attributed to Mitch Zeller, J.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products:
“E-cigarettes should never be marketed to, sold to or used by kids, and it’s critical that we continue to take aggressive steps to address the youth use of these products. This includes taking a hard look at the social media marketing practices of some popular e-cigarette companies.
“We’ve sent four e-cigarette companies official requests to submit information about their marketing practices, having identified all of these companies as having large followings, actively posting on social media and not using age restriction tools on those platforms. This allows the FDA to further understand the relationship between rising youth exposure to online e-cigarette marketing and youth use. Based on what we learn from the information these companies provide to the FDA, we will explore our regulatory options, including using the full scope of our authority to target youth exposure and access to, and appeal of, these products.
“These letters are the latest in a series of steps the agency has taken as part of our continued commitment to providing strong oversight of e-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems. Our top priority is to prevent kids from getting hooked on nicotine. We will continue to scrutinize tobacco product marketing and take action as appropriate to ensure kids are not targeted.”
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is requesting information about the social media marketing of four companies’ e-cigarette products, as well as their use of social media influencers, specifically as it relates to targeting youth. The companies receiving the official requests for information market the following brands: Aspire, Joyetech, Vaporesso and Voopoo.
- The FDA selected these companies through a systematic process, which included evaluating each company’s presence, reach and activity on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, and whether it uses age restriction tools for these platforms.
- Research has found youth engage with ENDS marketing on social media by following and sharing brand messages. Additionally, several sources report that e-cigarette companies are marketing through brand ambassadors and “influencers,” a term commonly used to describe people with large social media followings who can be compensated to promote products. Influencers may engage youth while marketing tobacco products. Youth engagement with online tobacco marketing, including social media marketing, is associated with tobacco use.
- The information the FDA is requesting includes, but is not limited to: documents related to social media advertising and marketing plans, including planned content, cost of plans, plans to target specific audiences, and plans to restrict youth exposure and/or access to ads; use of partners, promoters, affiliates, influencers, bloggers, and/or brand ambassadors; and the number of followers and/or viewers broken out by age group, how the ages of followers and viewers are tracked and managed, and any actions taken to restrict youth-access and/or limit youth-exposure to the products’ labeling, advertising, marketing, and/or promotion in social media channels and a summary of the effectiveness of such actions.
- The companies have 60 days to respond to the agency. Failure to provide the information is a violation of the law and subject to regulatory and enforcement action by the FDA.
The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.