Social media firms are risking vaping content being seen by minors and jeopardising the legality of the category, according to intellectual property specialists Incopro.

The research, seen exclusively by Vape Retailer, revealed that while vape brands are complying with social media policies and avoiding advertising on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, user-generated ads still remained prevalent.

Between October and December 2019, Incopro discovered more than 1,000 posts and pages related to e-cigarette sales that it ranked as “concerning”.

TikTok, a popular video app among teenagers, with a minimum age of 13 for its users, was flagged as a particular concern. The research highlighted “many videos” with the hashtag #vapetricks despite the app having a policy to not “encourage the use of regulated goods prohibited by local laws”.

Alex Farmer, vice president of customer success at Incopro, called on vape firms to better regulate social media content. “It is critical that videos promoting vaping are able to be screened by brand owners in some way to assist in youth prevention efforts as the platform’s preventative mechanisms are lacking,” he said.

As well as promotional adverts, Incopro uncovered counterfeit products being advertised on social media, claiming to be brands such as Sandvik, which manufactures wiring that is used in coils in high-end vaping products.

It added that Mondelez International, with its portfolio of well-known brands, is often targeted by counterfeit vape producers.

A spokesperson from Mondelez International said: “We take matters of infringement of our intellectual property rights very seriously in order to protect our leading brands and the retailers and consumers who buy them.”

“Youth are the most at risk by [the government] regulating legitimate products without addressing counterfeit goods,” Farmer said. “They are the most likely to seek non-legitimate channels for vape-related products, so it must be all hands on deck to remove illegitimate products from the market.”