Vape influencers, take note in the new year. On Wednesday it was announced that Facebook and Instagram will start removing posts that promote vaping, tobacco, or weapons “in the coming weeks,” according to an IG spokesperson.
The platforms a history of banning such content. Facebook has long held the policy that advertisements for vaping, tobacco, and weapons were unacceptable on the platform. There was a workaround, however; individual users (users without business pages) could hype such products, and businesses could promote the posts, vastly expanding their audience.
No longer. The Instagram rep that made Wednesday’s announcement said that it would be the first time the social media platform had placed restrictions on individual users’ branded content. The announcement follows one from Apple stating that the company would be removing vaping-related apps from its iOS store.
It won’t just be e-cigs, other kinds of tobacco, and guns that get the chop on Facebook and Instagram. Alcohol and diet supplements could also be subject to “special restrictions” next year when the new policy takes effect.
Banning the promotion of certain products is not the only policy change that will be implemented by the sites. Facebook has announced that it will be developing strategies to let advertisers limit viewing of certain content to users of a certain age. Facebook will be rolling out a feature called Brand Collabs Manager that goes along with its recent experiment of making like counts on posts private. That program will begin with 40 United States-based Instagram content creators, and will focus on giving pro accounts the option to share metrics of engagement with partners.
This month four vaping companies had their Instagram posts relating to e-cigarettes officially prohibited by the United Kingdom’s Advertising Standards Authority.
In response to the ruling, anti-tobacco activist groups applauded the ASA, but said that much more work is needed to limit the influence of tobacco companies. “Urgent policy change is needed from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to prevent BAT and other tobacco companies from using social media to advertise their harmful products to young people around the world,” said a statement by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
The social media crackdown on vaping is part of a global wave of actions to limit e-cigarettes, which have surged in popularity over the last years and have seen a particular surge among teen users.
Concern over the products soared this fall when a vaping-related health crisis emerged, claiming hundreds of lives via severe lung injury. In response, several local and state governments moved to ban the products.
One of the first long-term studies of vaping’s impact on health was published on Monday. The investigation found that e-cigarettes raise users’ risk of lung cancer. The conclusions are significant because the vaping industry has long promoted its products as a healthy alternative to analogue cigarettes, and even as a cigarette smoking abatement device.
But many have questioned the wisdom of banning or limiting access to vaping, especially given the middling at-best results of prohibiting other drugs.
“The better, if more complicated, option would be to build a public health system that’s strong enough to combat all nicotine addiction in the long term,” wrote the New York Times editorial board in an op-ed questioning the wisdom of recent bans on e-cigs.