Ad Watchdog Issues Warning about E-Cigarette Marketing
MADISON, CONN. September 2, 2015 — Consumers eager to try out e-cigarettes need to be wary of the flood of questionable ad claims on the Internet according to ad watchdog truthinadvertising.org (TINA.org).
As part of its ongoing investigation of ads by the emerging industry, TINA.org examined more than 150 e-cigarette sites, including wholesalers, retailers of major and minor brands as well as small, independent sites that were found in a routine online search for vaping products. The review found that nearly two-thirds of sites made one or more of the following problematic claims: vaping products are safer than tobacco, can be smoked anywhere, can help smokers quit, and are cheaper than traditional cigarettes.
“Consumers need to do their own independent research and not simply rely on the marketing claims made by these companies on their websites,” said TINA.org Executive Director Bonnie Patten.
TINA.org’s report comes as the FDA is finalizing regulations for the industry. Last year, the agency indicated it would be extending its oversight of tobacco products to e-cigarettes. Many online e-cigarette companies, however, are taking advantage of the regulatory gap to market their wares with a variety of suspect claims.
Half of the sites analyzed mention a health benefit even though the FDA maintains that the risks associated with e-cigarettes have not been fully studied. In addition, key reports have found the presence of harmful chemicals. TINA.org’s review also reveal that 41 percent of sites market e-liquids in kid-friendly flavors such as “gummy bear,” “fruit hoops,” and “Bubble Yum.”
Last year, TINA.org alerted Utah officials as well as the FTC to deceptive advertising by Vapex, an online e-cigarette company. Several weeks later, Utah consumer protection officials cited the company for multiple violations, including advertising risk free starter kits that weren’t free, claims that the vaping product was a healthy alternative to traditional cigarettes, and that the products could be used anywhere.