Instagram to ban influencers from promoting vaping, guns

Instagram and Facebook will no longer allow “influencers” to promote vaping or tobacco-related products or weapons, the company said Wednesday.

Facebook, which owns Instagram, said in a blog post it will no longer allow “branded content” that promotes those items. Facebook’s policies have long prohibited the direct advertisement of tobacco or weapons, but did not control what influencers could post. 

The policy change closes a loophole that allowed companies such as e-cigarette manufacturer Juul Labs to promote their products, even though vaping ads were technically banned.

Under Facebook’s and Instagram’s previous policies, advertisers could pay influencers to promote their products, and the companies would not intervene. The company said it would begin enforcement of the new rule “in the coming weeks.”

Juul is the country’s leading e-cigarette company, and a large part of its initial success and massive growth among young people was due to social media influencers. 

Juul has recently attempted to distance itself from the online campaign, but the role of online influencers has drawn scrutiny from numerous state and federal regulators. Juul deleted its entire social media presence in the fall as part of a broader plan to curb youth use of e-cigarettes.

Facebook also said it will require special restrictions on branded content that promotes goods such as alcohol or diet supplements, beginning next year. The company said it is building specific tools to help creators comply with these new policies, including the ability to restrict who can see their content, based on age.

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