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Instagram bans influencers from promoting tobacco and vaping in branded content

Social media influencers on Instagram aren’t allowed to promote vaping, tobacco products, or weapons anymore as part of newly updated rules on the platform. 

Facebook-owned Instagram announced on Wednesday that branded posts promoting any of those goods are no longer allowed on either social media platform. 

“Branded content that promotes goods such as vaping, tobacco products, and weapons will not be allowed. Our advertising policies have long prohibited the advertisement of these products, and we will begin enforcement on this in the coming weeks,” reads a blog announcing the updates. 

An Instagram spokesperson told CNBC that this is the first instance where the platform is restricting the kind of items that can be promoted through branded content.

In June, Instagram introduced branded content ads, a form of advertising that allows influencers to work with brands to promote posts beyond their followers. Branded content ads are indicated with a “paid partnership with” tag and appear in the news feed, as well as in the “Stories” tab. 

Even though Instagram has cracked down on other branded content promoting goods like cosmetic surgery procedures or particular diet products, these items are not a part of the new ban, and instead require special restrictions. 

Instagram’s move comes at the end of a year when vaping and the illnesses that can be caused by it made big headlines and were major topics of debate. E-cigarette company Juul has been at the center of the controversy, and lawmakers and critics of the company point to Juul’s marketing practices on platforms like Instagram as fueling vaping by young people. 

The Federal Trade Commission started an investigation against Juul in August. The agency is looking into whether or not Juul used deceptive marketing practices to target their products to minors. Investigators are also interested in Juul’s hiring of influencers to promote its e-cigarette products and whether influencers were used to attract minors. Juul has since deleted all of its social media pages. 

Juul advertises its products as being a safer alternative to cigarette smoking, going as far as targeting those cigarette smokers looking to quit. Sstudies show e-cigarette smokers are less likely to quit than smokers who have never used these kinds of devices.

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