Social Media's Regulation Of Vape Products Has Its Loopholes

It seems as each week passes, there’s the impending news of another blow to the vaping industry, whether that be in the form of a new piece of legislation or a study released brandishing vaping as this generation’s crack cocaine. More recently, there’s been reports of Facebook and Instagram clamping down on the sale of alcohol, tobacco and e-cigarettes, which has been warmly received from both sides of the vaping fence, particularly relating to combating of underage sales from illegitimate vendors.

We take a look at the true facts and motives behind these steps from the social media giants, and whether or not it’s just another slanderous tool to appease the anti-vapers out there.

What Is The New Law?

social media vaping regulations

As reported by CNN, the new policy states that Facebook and Instagram prohibit all private sales, trades, transfers and gifting of alcohol and tobacco products - including e-cigarettes, on the social media platforms, whilst any brands that post content related to the sale or transfer of these products, will have to restrict content to adults 18 or older. This is seen as a huge step in the constant war of illegal vendors selling vape equipment to literally anyone that provides them money, which of course includes underage consumers.

The policy came into effect on 24th July 2019, yet outlets were quick to pick up on a defining feature of the guidelines regarding the exemption of social media influencers being affected. This basically means that influencers, even though they are paid to promote said products, are completely free to post content about e-cigarettes, tobacco and alcohol to their audience of predominantly young people, with no age restrictions or prohibition regulations whatsoever.

Vaping social media influencers provide huge exposure for the vaping industry, yet these perceived shady marketing tactics represent a section of the industry which ultimately falls in line with the stereotypes that anti-vaping activists set. This is echoed by one of the big vape companies alleged controversial funding of over $200k to influencers in efforts to expand their outreach amongst young people and teenagers, evidenced by a US congressional committee recently. With this discovery from the FDA (Food and Drugs Administration), surely it would make sense to scrutinise influencers and companies in equal measure to eradicate the problem of the so called ‘teen vaping epidemic’?

A Facebook spokeswoman reiterated that they are ‘considering possible changes to its influencer policy and is working with industry and regulatory bodies on potential revisions’, yet this current loophole could potentially open up a whole host of problems for the vape industry which could prove to be counterintuitive.

Why & What Next?

It’s pretty self-evident that the youth of this generation are heavily influenced by social media, therefore it makes sense for Facebook (who acquired Instagram back in 2012) to regulate the sale and advertising of products which could be harmful if put in the wrong hands. The choice to not constrain the social media influencers is an odd move however, which leaves many questions unanswered, particularly when the majority of the influencers’ followership are teenagers and young people who can be easily swayed by constructed messaging and marketing.

With the recent release of the FDA anti-vaping adverts, fronted by British social media personality and magician Julius Dein, are we beginning to see the rise of the influencer in a political and power sense? It seems the overall ambition to abolish the ‘teen vaping epidemic’ is more of an attack on the industry rather than examining in-depth the root of the problem which unfortunately heavily involves the actions of social media influencers whose primary motive, as their title suggests, is to influence.

The fact that the social media juggernaut, Facebook, seems to be dodging the regulation and restriction of these influencers, points to the idea that they’re protecting one of their own.  It seems they’re worried about the reduction of traction through Facebook and Instagram, which obviously generates revenue for both the platform and the influencers. This deemed conflict of interest arguably highlights the motive behind the new policy set by Facebook and just how their aimed appeasement of anti-vaping activists is purely surface level, which is unlikely to result in overwhelming success.

The vaping industry awaits to see if the further revision of this policy will affect the influencers and whether or not they will be restricted in some capacity or another. For more information, visit our website or please don’t hesitate to contact us regarding any queries surrounding vaping social media policy or vaping in general.

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