Gloves designed to take the chill out of wintertime vaping, promoted on Facebook's Instagram amid a rash of illnesses and deaths linked to the habit, are taking flak from consumer-safety advocates.
But Puff Gloves, a New York City-based business that touts the handwear as "the first and only gloves with a convenient slot" that can hold an e-cigarette, isn't alone in capitalizing on vaping. Amazon sells phone cases marketed as Juul holders for $10, and digital marketplace Etsy has a webpage selling Juul accessories such as knockoff designer decals for $7 and vape necklaces for $30.
"If you can't market tobacco or Juuls to kids, why should you be able to market clothing that markets vaping to children?" asked Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit public interest group. "This is one thing if it's a so-called black market for clothing, but if it becomes mainstream, it becomes very dangerous. We know that kids and teens are very vulnerable to marketing messages."
Puff Gloves, which come in four different styles, are selling for $19.99 to $39.99 on Puff's website. The company declined to say how many have been sold since the product was introduced last month, though a sales representative told FOX Business it has "seen a lot of success."
The brand has more than 2,000 followers on Instagram. Juul, Instagram and Amazon did not immediately return requests for comment.
Federal law forbids selling vaping products to anyone under 18, and President Trump has said his administration may try to raise the minimum age to 21.
At least 47 deaths in 25 states and the District of Columbia have been linked to lung injuries from vaping, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many patients reported a gradual start to symptoms that ranged from breathing difficulty to chest pain, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Some victims experienced vomiting and diarrhea, or other symptoms such as fevers or fatigue, the agency said.
Access to vaping products varies on a state-by-state basis, and some buyers can get around age restrictions by buying online. There are at least 35,000 vape shops in the U.S. alone, and even more on the Internet, according to an estimate from the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association.
Using social media platforms to market vaping-related apparel will only perpetuate the risky habit, consumer advocates say. Puff Gloves and many retailers selling vaping-related accessories don't have warnings on websites or ask customers for their ages.
A Puff Gloves representative said the business condemns any underage use of vaping products.
Other companies have dropped vaping products altogether, however. Smartphone maker Apple said it removed all vaping-related apps from the App Store in November, and grocery chains like Kroger, Walmart and Rite Aid have banned the sale of vaping products in stores.