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All-Things CBD Advertising
Know what claims cross the line.
Your BBB is working with other BBB's across North America to connect with businesses selling CBD products. Working with BBB's Advertising Review Department is an excellent way to ensure your company's marketing materials aren't exposing you to potential liability or imposing significant substantiation burdens.

BBB has noticed a number of businesses across North America advertising health benefit claims for humans and animals that cannot currently be substantiated. To better assist businesses, we are launching a nation-wide campaign to educate businesses on best practices in advertising CBD products and the benefit of BBB's self-regulatory services.

CBD shows great promise with multiple applications, but ad claims require proof prior to dissemination. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. We've created advertising guidance to avoid unsubstantiated ad claims for your CBD products.

While the future may be bright, currently, CBD lacks the randomized human clinical trials necessary to advertise most health claims.
CBD, Claimed Results & Substantiation
When disease claims are advertised, it’s necessary to provide competent and reliable scientific evidence. The type of substantiation depends on the claims being made.

In the case of health claims and CBD, substantiation would likely involve human testing that is blinded, performed by an independent third party, placebo controlled, conducted on a sufficient scope of subjects, and has ideally been peer reviewed.

This also includes consumer testimonials that state or imply disease cures or medication cessation. For example, “Thanks to CBD I’m no longer taking my blood pressure meds!” Advertising this type of testimonial places the same substantiation burden on businesses that CBD will treat hypertension.

When substantiation is not available, simply removing or re-wording claims is strongly suggested. Including a qualifier like “may help with depression” is not a sufficient substitute. 
Permissible Claims
There are a number of ways that you can highlight the fact that CBD is contained in the products without advertising unproven claims. It’s important to word claims in a way that does not state or imply CBD itself will produce a specific health effect. 

Until competent human clinical trials are available to prove product health benefits of CBD. specific claims must be avoided.

BBB recommends that businesses highlight other aspects of operations (if they are true), such as:

  • Your company's commitment to providing excellent customer service.
  • Company goals in serving the community.
  • Commitments to providing top quality products.

There are always options to advertise your company and the fact that you sell CBD products without resorting to unsupported health claims that come with high substantiation requirements.
Examples of Puffery | No Proof Required
  • “Our best CBD oil ever”
  • “Stimulating”
  • “Soothing”
  • “Calming”
  • "Pacifying"
  • “Relaxing”
  • “Relieving”
  • “Invigorating”
  • “Helps you live your best life!”
The above statements intangible qualities do not require substantiation. Statements viewed as objective superlatives, however, do require proof. “Fastest acting” or “better absorption” for instance are factual must be proven. 
Avoid Bioavailability & Synergistic Claims
Decouple any explicit or implied claims connected to CBD. Claiming that your product is intended to function when taken with other products requires well controlled human testing. 

Claiming that your product is more bioavailable than others also requires human testing. Comparing the bioavailability of your product to others requires comparative human testing.
Steer Clear of Disease Claims
Don't state or imply that CBD itself can replace prescribed medications, treat, cure, or prevent diseases. Even if testimonials are genuinely provided by consumers, it’s important to not advertise any containing disease claims.

Avoid terminology involving synergistic or combined effects. These types of claims also require substantiation showing the combination does not produce contraindications. Statements regarding the overall formulation should similarly be avoided without human testing.

General statements about how bodily system function are permissible. However, problems arise when general statements or imagery imply health benefits. 
Remove Risk-Free Claims
There are very few products available that can be advertised as "risk-free." CBD is not one of those products. Per the FDA, consumers have reported the following side effects:
  • Gastrointestinal Distress
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased Appetite
  • Changes in Mood
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
Claiming that your CBD products are risk-free or safe and effective simply cannot be continued without competent clinical data.
Ingredient Claims Require Evidence
Including claims like Vitamin C's impact on the immune system can still place substantiation burdens on businesses.

For example, “Our CBD product also contains carefully selected ingredients like vitamin C to boost the immune system.”

While the above statement ties any health claims directly to vitamin C rather than CBD, substantiation is still necessary. If the ingredient in question hasn't been tested when combined with others contained in your product you can't be sure the ingredient will function the same as if it were ingested on its own.
National Advertising Division
According to recent casework from the National Advertising Division:
NAD wishes to “reminder to advertisers to substantiate product claims based on product – not ingredient – testing. ‘In the absence of testing on the product itself, any claims about the product would necessarily have to be clearly limited to ingredient claims, and not suggest or imply that the product itself has been tested or shown to provide the claimed results,’ the NAD emphasized.”

Recent decisions “recognized that some general product efficacy claims promising health benefits can be substantiated without clinical studies of the specific product in question, but ‘the advertiser must still demonstrate that it is scientifically sound to draw conclusions from outside studies and data and apply them to the performance claimed by the advertised product,’ the NAD said. In the case at hand, ‘there is no actual product testing in the record, and thus no direct evidence that the product itself will have the same effect as an individual ingredient alone.’”  
Recent FTC Action
On December 17, 2020, the Federal Trade Commission announced actions taken against six businesses.
Operation CBDeceit sends a clear message that unsupported claims cannot be advertised, and come with serious liability concerns.
Here are a few examples of claims lacking substantiation that landed these businesses in hot water:

  • "Non-habit forming"
  • "Reduces Pain & Chronic Aches"
  • "Promotes Healthy Sleep"
  • "Non-Addictive"
  • "Safe [and] Effective"
  • "No psychoactive properties"
  • "Treats or prevents cancer”
  • "May help with Focus & Memory"
  • "Prevents dementia"
  • “Reduces blood sugar levels”
  • “Prevents or reduces seizures”

The above is a short sample of claims that lacked competent and reliable scientific evidence.
Bottom line, if claims cannot be substantiated they should not be advertised.
Per the release, "The FTC is requiring each of the companies, and individuals behind them, to stop making such unsupported health claims immediately, and several will pay monetary judgments to the agency."
FDA Warnings
On December 22, 2020, the Food & Drug Administration also announced action against five businesses to "address the illegal marketing of unapproved CBD products claiming to treat medical conditions."
The FDA has issued multiple warnings regarding safety and efficacy claims attributed to products containing CBD.
BBB's Free Prior-to-Publication Services
Self-regulation is always easier and far cheaper than dealing with a regulatory lawsuit. If you ever have questions, BBB provides free prior-to-publication review services. We’re happy to review anything for compliance with BBB standards. 

Our sincere thanks,