Unsubstantiated online marketing claims by Emerson Direct Inc. about their anti-smoking product, Smoke Away, have lead to a $1.3 million settlement between the Florida company and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The FTC complaint against Emerson Direct, Inc. (doing business as the Council on Natural Health) of Naples, Florida, and its owner Michael J. Connors charged that the company could not support claims that the product made quitting smoking easy and did so without cravings or side effects.
The FTC also alleged the credentials of doctors were misused and that one chiropractor did not have the expertise he was claimed to have.
Also implicated in the complaint were Thomas De Blasio, M.D., a physician from Manalapan, New Jersey, and Sherry Bresnahan, D.C., a chiropractor from Algonquin, Illinois, who were involved in advertisements endorsing the product.
The FTC disputed a number of statements made about Smoke Away in a variety of advertisements including a national television infomercial, 60- and 120-second national television ads, 60-second radio spots, and on Web sites.
The company claimed Smoke Away enables smokers: to quit smoking in seven days or less; to quit smoking quickly, effortlessly, and permanently; to eliminate nicotine cravings; and that the product caused no withdrawal symptoms or side-effects such as weight gain, insomnia, or tension.
Claims were also made that Smoke Away is more effective than nicotine patches, nicotine gum, and prescription medications for smoking cessation.
The FTC charged that these claims were false or unsubstantiated and that Connors also misrepresented the company’s policy of giving prompt refunds to dissatisfied consumers.
In addition to the significant settlement, the company is prohibited from making any claims about the benefits, performance, efficacy, safety, or side-effects of Smoke Away or any other smoking cessation product or program unless those claims are true, non-misleading, and substantiated. Distributors and sales agents must also be notified about the settlement.
Likewise, the defendants are prohibited from making any claims about the benefits, performance, or efficacy of any food, drug, or dietary supplement unless those claims are backed by scientific evidence. Doctor’s claiming to be experts must have actually tested the product.