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Ad watchdog warns about e-cigarette marketing

September 2, 2015
by Julia Brown, Associate Editor
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E-cigarette companies are marketing their products questionably on the Internet, according to ad watchdog truthinadvertising.org (TINA.org), and consumers and industry members alike need to be wary.

The Madison, Conn. non-profit organization that uses investigative journalism, education and advocacy to empower and protect consumers against false advertising and deceptive marketing found after examining more than 150 e-cigarette sites—including wholesalers, retailers of major and minor brands and small, independent sites—that nearly two-thirds of the sites made one or more of the following problematic claims about e-cigarettes:  

  • They’re safer than tobacco;
  • Can be smoked anywhere;
  • Can help smokers quit; and
  • Are cheaper than traditional cigarettes.

The review also showed that 41 percent of these sites market e-liquids—the fluid that fuels e-cigarettes—in kid-friendly flavors such as "gummy bear," "fruit hoops," and "Bubble Yum."

Additionally, half of the sites that were analyzed mention that e-cigarettes provide a health benefit, even though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) maintains that risks associated with the products have not been fully studied. However, several reports have found in them the presence of harmful chemicals. This review is all part of the organization's ongoing investigation of ads by the emerging e-cigarette industry.

The report comes as the FDA finalizes its regulations for the tobacco industry. In 2014, the agency indicated an extension of its oversight of tobacco products to e-cigarettes. However, many e-cigarette companies are taking advantage of the regulatory gap.

TINA.org has alerted officials and the FTC in the past to deceptive advertising by the online e-cigarette company, Vapex. Several weeks later, the company was cited for multiple violations, including advertising risk free starter kits that weren't free, claims that the product was a healthy alternative to traditional cigarettes and that they could be used anywhere.

For more information on TINA.org's review of e-cigarette advertising, visit www.truthinadvertising.org/smoking-out-e-cigarette-ad-claims/.

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