FDA Warns E-Cigarette Companies Using Social Media Influencers to Sell Products

JUNE 08, 2019
E-cigarettes have been under much scrutiny since use among youth has increased, which may also incease risk of adverse health effects. According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey, e-cigarette use dramatically increased during 2017-2018, with 1 in 20 middle school students currently using these products.1 

The FDA and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently issued warning letters to 4 firms that manufacture, advertise, and sell flavored e-liquid products for violations from online posts by social media influencers on each company’s behalf.2 Social media influencers are individuals with a large number of online followers that assist with promoting products on behalf of certain brands or companies.

Through social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, influencers from the following companies were said to be in violation: Solace Technologies, Hype City Vapors, Humble Juice, and Artist Liquids Laboratories.2 According to the agencies issuing the warnings, advertising content was posted for the flavored e-liquid products and had recommended their followers try these products without also including the required nicotine warning statement.

Since August 10, 2018, the FDA has enforced the warning requirement on e-liquid products that states “WARNING: This product contains nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive chemical.”2  The companies have 15 days to respond to the warning letters and are required to correct the violations.

The FDA’s Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan was recently created to prevent youth from using tobacco products, especially e-cigarettes. Part of the initiative includes curbing marketing of tobacco products aimed at youth and educating teens about the dangers of using e-cigarettes. From April 2018-April 2019, the FDA issued over 3950 warning letters to online retailers for illegal sales of electronic nicotine delivery system and e-liquid products to minors.2 Additionally, the FDA and FTC issued warning letters and investigated more than 15 companies selling e-liquids that resemble kid-friendly foods, such as juice boxes, cereal, and candy.2 

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, poison control centers have managed 1722 exposure cases involving e-cigarette devices and liquid nicotine in 2019 as of May 31, 2019.3 Children and toddlers have come in contact with these products, which can cause nausea and vomiting. Some cases have required emergency department visits.

Pharmacists can play an important role in educating the youth about the dangers of e-cigarettes through community outreach programs. Additionally, the Poison Help hotline should be contacted at 1-800-222-1222 if someone, such as a child, has been exposed in a dangerous way to e-cigarettes or liquid nicotine. Parents using e-cigarette products should be educated to keep them locked away and out of reach of children to prevent accidental ingestion.

References                                                          
  1. Cullen KA, Ambrose BK, Gentzke AS, Apelberg BJ, Jamal A, King BA. Notes from the Field: Use of Electronic Cigarettes and Any Tobacco Product Among Middle and High School Students-United States, 2011-2018. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2018;67:1276-1277. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6745a5.   
  2. FDA, FTC take action to protect kids by citing four firms that make, sell flavored e-liquids for violations related to online posts by social media influencers on their behalf [news release]. Silver Spring, MD; June 7, 2019; FDA website. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-ftc-take-action-protect-kids-citing-four-firms-make-sell-flavored-e-liquids-violations-related. Accessed June 8, 2019.
  3. E-cigarettes and liquid nicotine. AAPCC website. https://aapcc.org/track/ecigarettes-liquid-nicotine. Accessed June 8, 2019.


Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh
Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh
Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh, received her PharmD degree from Nova Southeastern University (NSU) College of Pharmacy in 2006 and completed a 2-year drug information residency. She served as a pharmacy professor at NSU’s College of Pharmacy for 6 years, managed the drug information center, and conducted medication therapy management reviews. Dr. Gershman has published research on prescription drug abuse, regulatory issues, and drug information in various scholarly journals. Additionally, she received the Sheriff’s Special Recognition Award for her collaboration with the Broward, Florida Sheriff’s Office to prevent prescription drug abuse through a drug disposal program. She has also presented at pharmacist and physician continuing education programs on topics that include medication errors, prescription drug abuse, and legal and regulatory issues. Dr. Gershman can be followed on Twitter @jgershman2
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