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Seventeen Companies Stop Sales of E-Liquids with Kid-Friendly Advertising

Warning Letters Issued for Products Resembling Juice Boxes, Cookies and Candy

In an effort to protect children from tobacco and nicotine-containing products, the FDA has announced that all 17 manufacturers, distributors and retailers that were warned by the agency in May have stopped selling their nicotine-containing e-liquids used in e-cigarettes with labeling or advertising resembling kid-friendly food and beverage products. Some of these products, such as juice boxes, candy and cookies, were identified as being false or misleading, e.g., by deceiving children into thinking the products were foods or juices they had consumed before and were therefore considered safe. Several of the companies that received warning letters had also been cited for illegally selling the products to minors.

Some examples of the products outlined in the warning letters included: “One Mad Hit Juice Box,” which resembled children’s apple juice boxes, such as Tree Top-brand juice boxes; “Whip’d Strawberry,” which resembled Reddi-wip dairy whipped topping; “Twirly Pop,” which not only resembled a Unicorn Pop lollipop but was shipped with one; and “Unicorn Cakes,” which included images and cartoon images of pancakes, a strawberry beverage and unicorns eating pancakes, similar to graphics and images from the “My Little Pony” television and toy franchise.

Following the warning letters previously issued in May, the FDA worked to ensure the companies took corrective action – such as no longer selling the products with the misleading labeling or advertising – and issued close-out letters to the firms. The agency expects some of the companies may sell the products with revised labeling that addresses the concerns expressed in the warning letters. The FDA will continue to monitor tobacco product labeling and advertising for potential violations of the law.

The warning letters stemmed from investigations that began in late 2017 of tobacco product labeling and advertising that imitated food products, particularly those that are marketed toward, and/or appealing to, children. The products were considered misbranded and sold in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act because their labeling and/or advertising imitating kid-friendly foods was misleading. The FTC joined the FDA on 13 of the warning letters under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, which prohibits unfair or deceptive advertising.

The continuing rise in popularity of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), such as e-cigarettes, has coincided with an increase in calls to poison control centers and visits to emergency rooms related to e-liquid poisoning and other liquid nicotine exposure of children younger than six years of age, according to a recent analysis of National Poison Data System data. Severe harm can occur in small children from exposure to or ingestion of e-liquids, including death from cardiac arrest, as well as seizure, coma and respiratory arrest.

More than 2 million middle and high school students were users of e-cigarettes and other ENDS in 2016, with flavor availability being one of the top reasons for use.

Source: FDA, August 23, 2018

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