Their Web site promises an end to nicotine addition with the purchase of a "Smoke Away" kit. The government says the companys claims play fast and loose with the truth. The result is a $1.3 million settlement between the marketers of "Smoke Away" and the Federal Trade Commission.
The FTC charges the company deceptively marketed the dietary supplement kits by claiming they would allow smokers to quit smoking quickly, easily, permanently, and without cravings or other side effects. The FTC charged the defendants did not have a reasonable basis for the claims they made about Smoke Away or for their claims that it is more effective than FDA-approved smoking-cessation products.
The FTC also charged that two doctors who endorsed Smoke Away in advertisements did not properly use their expertise, and that one, a chiropractor, did not actually have the expertise she was represented as having.
The company marketing Smoke Away and its owner have agreed to pay $1.3 million to settle the charges.
They also are 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.
All of 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. If either doctor is endorsing one of those products as an expert, they must actually have exercised their expertise by examining or testing the product.
The chiropractor cannot misrepresent her expertise, training, and experience.
The FTCs complaint challenged a number of claims made about Smoke Away in a national television infomercial, 60- and 120-second national television ads, 60-second radio spots, and on Web sites. Specifically, the FTC alleges the advertising claimed that:
• Smoke Away enables smokers to quit smoking in seven days or less;
• Smoke Away enables smokers to quit smoking quickly, effortlessly, and permanently;
• Smoke Away eliminates nicotine cravings;
• Smoke Away users have no withdrawal symptoms or side effects, such as weight gain, insomnia, or tension; and
• Smoke Away is more effective than nicotine patches, nicotine gum, and prescription medications for smoking cessation.
The FTC filed a complaint against Emerson Direct, Inc. (doing business as the Council on Natural Health) of Naples, Florida, the corporation that marketed Smoke Away; its owner Michael J. Connors, also of Naples, Florida; Thomas De Blasio, M.D., a physician from Manalapan, New Jersey; and Sherry Bresnahan, D.C., a chiropractor from Algonquin, Illinois. Emerson Direct marketed Smoke Away, while De Blasio and Bresnahan appeared as expert endorsers in advertisements.
Emerson Direct and Connors offered two versions of Smoke Away. Each version included various dietary supplements made of combinations of vitamins, herbs, and other ingredients.
The FTCs complaint further alleges that those five claims made by Emerson Direct and Connors were false or unsubstantiated, and that Emerson Direct and Connors also misrepresented that they provide timely refunds to consumers who requested such refunds. The FTC also alleged that Emerson Direct, Connors, and Bresnahan misrepresented that Bresnahan was an expert in nicotine addiction or smoking cessation.
Finally, the complaint alleges that Bresnahan and De Blasio both made the five claims listed above concerning Smoke Away, and that they did not have a reasonable basis for those representations or exercise their purported expertise in the fields of nicotine addiction or smoking cessation by adequately testing or examining Smoke Away.
The order against Emerson Direct and Connors requires them to pay $1.3 million; if they misrepresented their financial condition, the full $61 million suspended judgment will be due. Finally, Emerson Direct and Connors must notify current and future distributors, resellers, and sales agents about the settlement.