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FTC opens inquiry into six e-cigarette makers over marketing

By
Sommer Brokaw
Electronic cigarette vape pen filled with e-liquid. Photo by Lindsay Fox/Wikimedia Commons ecigarettereviewed.com https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/legalcode
Electronic cigarette vape pen filled with e-liquid. Photo by Lindsay Fox/Wikimedia Commons ecigarettereviewed.com https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/legalcode

Oct. 3 (UPI) -- The Federal Trade Commission opened an inquiry Thursday into the marketing practices of six e-cigarette manufacturers.

The FTC issued orders Thursday demanding information from six companies, including JUUL Labs, R.J. Reynolds Vapor Company, Fontem US, Logic Technology Development, Nu Mark and NJOY.

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The inquiry will examine these six makers of e-cigarettes "sales, advertising, and promotional practices," from 2015-2018, an FTC press release said. The orders set a deadline of Jan. 2 to turnover data, according to a copy of the order sent to companies on Aug. 29.

The data request includes information on each company's giveaways of e-cigarette products, product flavors, product placement, social media accounts used to advertise, and college campus program brand ambassadors or sampling events, along with annual sales and money spent on advertising.

RELATED Altria suspends U.S. marketing of Juul e-cigarettes, vaping products

Companies were also asked to report advertisements used to curb e-cigarette use among minors.

The FTC said the data will be used for a study similar to its other studies on cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products.

It is authorized to file the orders under Section 6(b) of the FTC Act, which allows the Commission to require "annual or special ... reports or answers in writing to specific questions."

RELATED FDA announces criminal investigation into vape-linked lung illnesses

As with subpoenas, "the recipient of a 6(b) order may file a "petition to limit or quash," and the FTC may seek a court order requiring compliance. If a party fails to comply with a 6(b) order after receiving a default notice from the FTC, then the FTC may began a suit in federal court.

"While the orders are called 6B orders rather than subpoenas, compliance is obligatory," FTC spokeswoman Betsy Lordan told CNBC.

Supporters have praised e-cigarettes for helping kick the habit of smoking, but critics say companies attract youth with flavored products.

RELATED CDC revises number of vaping-linked lung illnesses down to 380

There is also rising concern as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last week that 12 people have died and the number of confirmed and probable lung disease cases tied to vaping has risen to 805 across 46 states and a U.S. territory.

The CDC is investigating the use of Vitamin E acetate as a filler in illicit THC vapes, as well as other substances and possible defects in vaping devices for both THC and nicotine e-cigarettes. The Food and Drug Administration has launched a criminal investigation into the suspected vaping-linked lung illnesses.

Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent two warning letters to JUUL labs in reference to the e-cigarette giant's alleged practice of marketing to adolescents and teenagers.

Also, last month, the Trump administration said it would impose a ban against non-tobacco flavored e-cigarette products in the wake of several deaths in the United States doctors linked to vaping.

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