Nicotine ad appears on Jeffco student’s distance learning app

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Former Colorado State Representative Rob Witner saw the advertisement for IQOS, an electronic cigarette product, appear on his son’s Quizlet app on Friday.

DENVER – When you think of school advertising, maybe it’s Got Milk? poster with John Elway or Terrell Davis with a milk mustache.

Perhaps it is a READ poster, with a celebrity or notable personality encouraging children to read.

It is probably unlikely that an advertisement for a nicotine product would come to mind.

“I was amazed. I don’t know if I could have been more surprised than if I had seen an advertisement for cigarettes in a school cafeteria,” said Rob Witwer.

Witwer, a former state official, saw the nicotine ad on his son’s educational app called Quizlet.

“He just said, ‘Look, I just got an e-cigarette ad on my school’s app,’” Witwer said.

He took to Twitter to publicly question the placement of the ad on an educational platform.

The product, IQOS is an electronic cigarette product from Philip Morris. Altria is the parent company of Philip Morris. Following Witwer’s complaint, Altria has removed all digital ads while it investigates.

“We take responsible marketing seriously and have strict controls in place to limit IQOS ads to adult smokers 25 years of age and older. We regret that this has happened and we have suspended all IQOS digital ads from 14 onwards. “00:00 EST today. We are working with our third ad placement company to investigate how this happened and to prevent a similar issue from reoccurring in the future,” Altria wrote.

“I don’t think the onus should be on the schoolboy and the parent to keep the tobacco advertising out of a virtual learning environment where the middle school kids can see it,” Witwer said.

The app also ran ads for a vacation site, mattress business, prescription drug, and sports betting.

Quizlet responded to Witwer’s tweet and apologized.

“We have filters in place to ensure that the ads on our site are appropriate for all users. By default, we ban adult content, suggestive images, tobacco, alcohol, drugs, dating , gambling, firearms, weapons, illegal or fraudulent content, and counterfeit products. When this happens, we actively work with our advertising partners to find out why this has slipped and find ways to ‘prevent this from happening again,’ Quizlet wrote.

“I don’t believe it was intentional,” Witwer said. “I hope that any gaps in the filtration process will be filled, so that this does not happen again.”

“I actually contacted the lobbyist for Altria and said, ‘Hey, that’s a problem. Are you aware of this? “” said State Representative Colin Larson (R-Littleton).

Larson co-sponsored the bill to raise the age for buying tobacco from 18 to 21. He also co-sponsored the 2019 bill banning indoor vaping.

“We need to be able to make sure that if we’re going to allow advertising on programs specifically aimed at students, that if you’re an Altria, if you’re a Coors, or any other age-restricted product and you go buy some advertising, that you can rest assured that your advertising will not appear on a quizlet or anything else specifically aimed at children, ”Larson said.

He said he was already considering legislation to penalize inappropriate advertising for age-specific products at ages that should not see it.

“This could create liability for advertising platforms for what they display,” Larson said.

“We don’t want to allow our children to be marketed for products that are dangerous to them,” Colorado Democratic Attorney General Phil Weiser said.

Weiser announced in July a lawsuit against another e-cigarette maker, JUUL Labs, Inc., for advertising to children.

“It is an unfair trade practice to market a product to children that they are not permitted to use, and we are making that point in this case against JUUL,” Weiser said.

The Quizlet platform allows users to pay a fee to opt out of advertising.

Why does an educational app contain ads in the first place?

“Ads allow us to make our service free for the millions of people who use Quizlet every month to study. We work closely with vendors and ad networks to ensure that the ads we display are tailored to a student audience. This means blocking entire categories of ads. – including, but not limited to, tobacco related advertisements. Unfortunately, an ad that should not be shown on Quizlet was displayed due to an advertiser being poorly ranked by our ad network partners. As mentioned, we’ve taken steps to prevent any additional users from seeing the ad. While the advertisement allows so many students to use Quizlet for free, we will also continue to take the content of these announcements seriously and ensure that they are appropriate for a student audience, ”Quizlet said in a comment. communicated. To Then with Kyle Clark.

While the ads were scrolling through the Quizlet app, Witwer saw an empty ad showing: “Ads from Google / Send Feedback / Why this ad?”

Next asked Google how ads are filled in the Quizlet ad space and why a nicotine ad would appear in a digital classroom.

According to Google, app developers must declare a target audience for their app. Children’s apps also have additional requirements under the “Designated for Families” program.

“We do not allow ads promoting vaping products and all apps designed for children or families must follow strict guidelines. When we find ads that violate our policies, we remove them immediately,” said a Google spokesperson.

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