Manufacturers of vaping products are under the microscope this week, as house-investigators ask probing questions.
Across social media, bots are pumping out messages about e-cigarettes and vaping. The biggest question at the moment is whether or not the messages have misled consumers. Some of the messages suggest that nicotine is safe, or that vaping represents a reasonable means of working towards smoking cessation.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has recently summoned detailed marketing expenditure data from major vaping manufacturers. Four out of five major manufacturers have publically announced that they do not use bots for promotional activities, while one company has not commented on the issue.
“From the early days of the e-cigarette boom, bots were used extensively to promote vaping, according to industry officials and antitobacco researchers,” writes The Wall Street Journal.
A public-health non-profit conducting a study on the matter concluded that nearly 80% of social media advertising on behalf of e-cigarettes and vaping either definitively or most likely comes from bots.
Identifying bots on the internet poses a unique challenge, as laws do not require for bots to indicate that they are in fact, bots. In addition, it is possible that companies are using third-parties to handle bot advertisements on their behalf.
“This approach to advertising and promoting vaping has gone this underground route, and is really fueling the epidemic,” says Raquel Mazon Jeffers, with the Nicholson Foundation, an organization that funds research.
For more information, visit The Wall Street Journal.