A coalition of over 100 global health and anti-smoking groups have called for companies to stop social media influencers promoting nicotine products, according to reports.
Following a swathe of endorsements by social media influencers of a type of flavoured nicotine pouch, produced by British American Tobacco (BAT), the group wrote a letter to the chief execs of Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter demanding for an end to the practice.
Spanning DJs, models and socialites, the influencers who promoted Velo, the flavoured pouch which provides a hit of nicotine to appease cravings, include former Made in Chelsea star Alex Mytton and racing driver Archie Hamilton. Mytton posted videos themed around Velo for his online following of over 350,000 viewers.
Although BAT brands Velo as an alternative to cigarettes to help smoking addicts, none of the social media posts by influencers suggest or mention quitting, according to the Guardian.
Earlier this year BAT was found to have bet around £1bn on using the popularity of social media influencers to reach young people in countries including Pakistan, Sweden and Spain, according to reports by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
“The true intention of these ads is quite clear: to keep customers addicted to nicotine and to entice young people to try nicotine products,” Caroline Renzulli, of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, told the Guardian.
Although promotional posts about Velo on instagram do state that they are aimed at over-18s, critics have pointed to the difficult task of accurately verifying the age of users on Instagram.
Critics of BAT’s Velo campaign on social media have accused the company of using the product to lure in new customers rather than to deter them from smoking.
BAT’s own research, according to the Guardian, showed that half of its consumer base for its nicotine pouches did not previously use nicotine.
A BAT spokesperson told the Guardian: “Our products are for adults only and we believe that youth should never use any tobacco or nicotine products. Our marketing is done responsibly, in strict accordance with our international marketing principles, our youth access prevention guidelines, legislation and the policies of social media platforms.
But the news, first reported by the Guardian, has prompted Facebook-owner and conglomerate Meta to investigate if Velo-related social media posts adhere to its guidelines, which do not allow nicotine product advertising and several posts have already been removed by Meta since the news.