Last week, CNN reported Facebook was implementing new rules about Tobacco and Alcohol content on Facebook. The report set off a frenzy and panic across all channels of the cigar community.

While most of this panic is premature, there are new rules – and the CNN report to this author seemed ambiguous. After some investigation, I got information from Facebook in terms of what these restrictions mean and don’t mean.

There are two categories of the new restrictions.

  1. Complete Ban (i.e. “Do Not Post”) – these are geared more toward private individuals
  2. Age Restricted Content – these are geared more at legitimate businesses

Complete Ban (“Do Not Post”)

The following is the content that is completely banned on Facebook

Content that attempts to offer, sell, gift, exchange, or transfer alcohol or tobacco products between private individuals. As per Facebook, this includes content that:

  • Mentions or depicts alcohol or tobacco, and
    • Makes an attempt to sell or trade, by which we mean:
      • Explicitly mentions the product is for sale or trade, or
      • Asks the audience to buy, or
      • Lists price or notes product is free
      • And is not posted by a Page representing a real brick-and-mortar store, legitimate website or brand

Age Restricted Content

The following are things that are age according to Facebook:

For the following content, we restrict visibility to adults eighteen years of age and older:

Content posted by or promoting a brick and mortar store, legitimate website or brand, which coordinates or promotes the sale or transfer of alcohol or tobacco products off of Facebook’s services. This includes content that:

  • Mentions or depicts alcohol or tobacco, and
    • Explicitly mentions the product is for sale or trade, or
    • Asks the audience to buy, or
    • Lists the price or notes product is free or
    • Encourages contact about the product either by:
      • Explicitly asking to be contacted, or
      • Including any type of contact information

What Does This Mean?

  1. It appears brick and mortar stores and cigar companies can continue to promote things on Facebook, but must continue to have age restricted content.  Facebook has an age restricted setting.
  2. Private cigar groups pretty much need to get out of the sales and trading business.
  3. Legitimate business is still something that is a gray area. After getting some questions answered, I soon realized I am not sure what criteria Facebook will use to ensure someone is brick and mortar or a legitimate business.
  4. Our advice for a media site is to not get involved with anything related to sales of tobacco products. We’d also highly recommend this content be restricted to 18 and over.
  5. There are some Facebook groups that have a fine line between a brick and mortar page and a private group. Our advice is either become one or the other, outline specific criteria and for retailers/companies take a more active role on these groups.
  6. All groups and pages need to monitor comments very closely.
  7. Changing the name of your group or putting a secret setting will have no use. Facebook uses sophisticated algorithms to identify violations of these standards. Facebook is a company that works on leading edge technologies and its a billion dollar company. Skirting any rules or finding a loop-hole will ultimately fail.
  8. This doesn’t mean further restrictions aren’t coming down the line, so be aware this could just be the beginning.