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Federal regulators issued warnings to four e-cigarette companies for failing to follow advertising rules for tobacco on their social media posts by so-called influencers.

The influencer endorsements on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter neglected to include the required nicotine warning, the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission announced Friday in a joint statement. The posts invited followers to try the liquid capsules, which come in an array of flavors, used in vape pens. The FTC, which polices unfair and deceptive corporate practices, said promotions that lack health risk disclosures could violate federal law.

The agencies sent warning letters to Solace Technologies, Hype City Vapors, Humble Juice Co. and Artist Liquid Labs. The companies did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"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 news release. "Moreover, ads must disclose material health or safety risks -- in this case, the fact that nicotine is highly addictive."

The warning letters include links and images of the influencers' posts, which invite social media users to buy a variety of flavored vaping products, including peanut butter, mango and blueberry. The companies now have 15 days to take action and notify the FTC of their progress, the agency said.

The agency also told the companies that influencers "should clearly and conspicuously disclose their relationships to the brands when promoting or endorsing products through social media." The reminder highlights the agency's ongoing effort to protect consumers who may not realize that online celebrities are paid to tout products online, in ways that don't resemble a traditional advertisement.

The marketing practices of the e-liquid industry have attracted the scrutiny of the FDA and FTC before. Last year, the agencies issued 13 warning letters to manufacturers, distributors and retailers for selling e-liquids in packaging that appeared to target children, such as juice boxes, candies and cookies, the regulators said.

Juul Labs stopped selling most of its flavored e-liquids in stores last year and bolstered its age-verification process for online orders. The FDA policy also requires e-cigarette companies to apply, by 2021, for federal approval of their products to remain in the market.

Business on 06/08/2019

Print Headline: Vaping publicity prompts cautions

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