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CBS, Viacom, and WarnerMedia ban e-cigarette advertisements amid vaping health crisis

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Following a similar CNN ban last week

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

CBS, Viacom, and WarnerMedia have all decided to ban advertisements for Juul and other e-cigarette makers amid global health concerns over a mysterious vaping-related lung disease that has claimed the lives of seven people and hospitalized hundreds of others. The decision, reported first this afternoon by CNBC, follows a similar ban from WarnerMedia-owned CNN announced last week.

CBS tells CNBC it will consider allowing vaping ads once research can show definitively that the products are not harmful. WarnerMedia, which has run Juul ads in recent weeks on cable channels it owns like TBS and TNT, will no longer accept such ads, which have spiked, in particular from Juul, since news of the vaping-related lung disease cases came under heightened scrutiny last month. Researchers believe the disease may be caused by an oil derived from Vitamin E found in some vaping products, some of which are bootleg vapes or contain other contaminants not regularly found in mainstream nicotine or THC products.

“WarnerMedia reserves the right to withdraw advertising from its platforms at its discretion,” a WarnerMedia spokesperson told CNBC. “Given warnings from the CDC, the AMA and the American Lung Association to consumers, our company has revised its policies regarding e-cigarette advertising, and will no longer accept advertising for this category. We will continue to monitor the investigations by relevant medical agencies and may re-evaluate our position as new facts come to light.”

“After reviewing the recent reports regarding the potentially serious health threats posed by e-cigarettes, Viacom has revised its policies regarding e-cigarette advertising, and will no longer air ads in this category effective immediately,” a Viacom spokesperson said in a statement given to The Verge. Viacom recently announced plans to merge with CBS Corporation, after spending the last 14 years as separate entities following a 2005 split that put the broadcast networks and other media and publishing assets under CBS and entertainment channels and Paramount Pictures under Viacom.

Pressure has been mounting worldwide against the vaping industry, which includes nicotine and marijuana-based devices, since the first vaping-related death occurred in late August and the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported hundreds of related cases of lung disease caused by vaping. Since then, the CDC has advised against using vaping devices, President Donald Trump has called the Food and Drug Administration to ban all flavored e-cigarettes, and swells of anti-Juul social media sentiment have begun sweeping young nicotine users.

Earlier today, the entire country of India banned any and all forms of e-cigarettes, in a move that will lock Juul and other vape makers out of one of the largest markets on the planet. In the US, Michigan became the first US state to ban flavored e-cigarettes earlier this month, and New York announced its ban on the flavored variant of the devices earlier this week, leaving just tobacco-flavored and menthol variants available.

Update, September 18th, 10:34PM ET: Added statement from Viacom indicating it too is banning ads for e-cigarette companies. The headline has been updated to reflect this fact.