Fake Anti-Vaping Comments Flood Regulations.gov

As you probably know, there was a massive push to get vapers to submit their comments to the FDA regarding their proposed rulemaking which could ban e-juice flavors. The deadline is over, so I hope you submitted a comment!

I want to thank Brent Stafford of Regulator Watch for breaking this story but I just want to share the quick version and some of my own thoughts.

So as of July 9th, there have been more than 517,000 comments submitted, but according to the FDA, nearly 60% of them are spam comments that are mostly anti-vaping. The FDA reported that somewhere around June 8th, someone launched a spam bot that hit their servers with more than 255,000 comments, which lasted for four days, until June 11th.

Most of these comments are variations of the same 10 comments, so the bot was submitting randomized comments at a massive rate to the comment form. They are nearly all marked as anonymous and have acronyms in the organization field that implicate the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Currently, it’s not known who is behind this spam campaign, but whoever did it appears to be trying to make it look like it’s from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, due to the similarities in the language of the comments and the letter that Tobacco-Free Kids sent to the FDA.

It’s really not that difficult for a single person to run a bot or hire someone for cheap to run a bot for them to do something like this. It’s hard to believe that this is an official campaign thought up by an anti-tobacco organization, but it could be a rogue anti-vaping extremist acting on their own.

Either way, the FDA has stopped the flood of comments, but it crushed their servers and has drastically reduced the ability for federal employees to review and approve comments.

The FDA has also said that they haven’t decided what to do with the comments yet or if they will even keep any of the comments, legitimate or not. There are discussions online saying that the FDA isn’t required to start the commenting period over, so they could throw out everything and pass whatever regulations they were likely to pass anyway, which in reality may have been the case all along.

Whether this hurts us in the end or if it didn’t even matter, there’s one thing this tells me. The other side is scared. They see the massive amount of support that the vape community is putting into fighting these proposed rules and they went for the most desperate response they could come up with. If we can keep up with our advocacy efforts, no matter how dire the future looks, eventually we can win.

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