FTC, FDA Take Action Against Companies Marketing E-liquids That Resemble Children’s Juice Boxes, Candies, and Cookies
Federal Trade Commission
As part of ongoing efforts to protect youth from the dangers of nicotine and tobacco products, today the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) jointly issued 13 warning letters to manufacturers, distributors, and retailers for selling e-liquids used in e-cigarettes with labeling and/or advertising that resemble kid-friendly food products, such as juice boxes, candies, or cookies, some of them with cartoon-like imagery. Several of the companies receiving warning letters also were cited for illegally selling the products to minors.
“Protecting young children from unwarranted health and safety risks is one of our highest priorities,” said Acting FTC Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen. “Nicotine is highly toxic, and these letters make clear that marketing methods that put kids at risk of nicotine poisoning are unacceptable.”
“No child should be using any tobacco product, and no tobacco products should be marketed in a way that endangers kids – especially by using imagery that misleads them into thinking the products are things they’d eat or drink. Looking at these side-to-side comparisons is alarming. It is easy to see how a child could confuse these e-liquid products for something they believe they’ve consumed before – like a juice box. These are preventable accidents that have the potential to result in serious harm or even death. Companies selling these products have a responsibility to ensure they aren’t putting children in harm’s way or enticing youth use, and we’ll continue to take action against those who sell tobacco products to youth and market products in this egregious fashion,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D.
“While we continue to encourage the development of potentially less harmful forms of nicotine delivery for currently addicted adult smokers, we will not allow that work to come at the expense of our children. The FDA remains committed to important efforts to restrict youth access, limit youth appeal and reduce toxic exposure to youth from all tobacco products – and we’ll continue to address these issues from every angle. We’re going to be taking a series of escalating actions under our new Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan, beginning with our actions last week targeting JUUL products, and continuing with today’s effort with our partners at the FTC. We appreciate the FTC in joining us in these actions.”
Some examples of the products outlined in the warning letters, and being sold through multiple online retailers, include: “One Mad Hit Juice Box,” which resembles children’s apple juice boxes, such as Tree Top-brand juice boxes; “Vape Heads Sour Smurf Sauce,” which resembles War Heads candy; and “V’Nilla Cookies & Milk,” which resembles Nilla Wafer and Golden Oreo cookies. Other products include “Whip’d Strawberry,” which resembles Reddi-wip dairy whipped topping, and “Twirly Pop,” which not only resembles a Unicorn Pop lollipop but is shipped with one.
In late 2017, the FDA started its investigation of tobacco product labeling and advertising that causes the tobacco products to imitate food products, particularly those that are marketed toward, or appealing to, children. The products noted in the warning letters are considered misbranded in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act because their labeling and/or advertising imitating kid-friendly foods is false or misleading.