Online E-cigarette Marketing Claims: A Systematic Content and Legal Analysis

Tob Regul Sci. 2016 Jul;2(3):252-262. doi: 10.18001/TRS.2.3.5. Epub 2016 Jul 1.


Objectives: Electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), or e-cigarettes, are heavily marketed online. The purpose of our study was to perform a systematic identification and evaluation of claims made within ENDS retailer and manufacturer websites, and the legal status of such claims.

Methods: We employed a systematic search protocol with popular search engines using 6 terms: (1) e-cigarettes; (2) e-cigs; (3) e-juice; (4) e-liquid; (5) e-hookah; and (6) vape pen. We analyzed English-language websites where ENDS are sold for implicit and explicit health-related claims. A legal analysis determined whether such claims are permissible under the US Food and Drug Administration's regulations.

Results: The vast majority of ENDS manufacturer (N = 78) and retailer (N = 32) websites made at least one health-related claim (77% and 65%, respectively). Modified risk claims and secondhand smoke-related claims were most prevalent, with an average of 2 claims per site.

Conclusions: Health-related claims are plentiful within ENDS manufacturer and retailer websites. Results demonstrate that these sites focus on potential benefits while minimizing or eliminating information about possible harmful effects of ENDS. These claims are subject to the current regulatory authority by the FDA, and pose a risk of misinforming consumers.

Keywords: ENDS; claims; communications; electronic cigarettes; health; online.