People Can No Longer Sell or Exchange Alcohol and Tobacco Products on Facebook and Instagram

These rules had already been in effect for ecommerce destination Marketplace

Facebook will enforce this updated policy with a mix of AI, human review and reports from users - Credit by dulezidar/iStock
Headshot of David Cohen

People are already prohibited from selling alcohol and tobacco products through areas on Facebook such as its Marketplace ecommerce destination, and Wednesday, the social network extended those rules to organic content.

Facebook said its new policy will ban private sales, trades, transfers and gifts of alcohol and tobacco products on Facebook and Instagram, and it will enforce this updated policy with a mix of artificial intelligence, human review and reports from users.

Brands that post content related to the sale or transfer of alcohol and tobacco products must restrict that content to users 18 and over.

A Facebook spokesperson said, “We are updating our regulated goods policy to prohibit the sale of alcohol and tobacco products between private individuals on Facebook and Instagram. Our commerce policies already prohibit the sale of tobacco or alcohol in places like Marketplace, but we’re now extending this to organic content.”

The policy also applies to groups that were created for the sale or exchange of these products, and Facebook said it is alerting group administrators about the changes.

Facebook and Instagram users of all ages can still post content related to alcohol, tobacco and vape products, as long as there is no intent to sell or exchange products of that sort.

Influencers who promote products containing nicotine can still do so, and those posts do not have to be age-restricted, but a Facebook spokesperson said the social network is considering changes to its policy on this front.

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids president Matthew L. Myers was not happy about that fact, saying in a statement, “The new policy by Facebook and Instagram falls far short of these needed actions. Facebook and Instagram ban paid advertisements for tobacco and ecigarettes on both platforms. However, the policy does not extend to content posted by social media influencers—a loophole that tobacco companies have and will continue to abuse.”

He continued, “In recent years, tobacco companies have increasingly used social media to target young people. Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco have flooded Instagram and Facebook with ads for cigarettes like Marlboro and Lucky Strike and heated cigarettes like IQOS and Glo. Similarly, Juul has fueled a youth ecigarette epidemic in the U.S., driven by the company’s ‘patently youth-oriented’ social media advertising. In the absence of meaningful policies from social media platforms, tobacco companies have found a way to turn today’s Instagram post into this generation’s ‘Marlboro Man.’” David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.