Scottish health campaigners have called for a further crackdown on the marketing of vaping to young people after the advertising watchdog ruled that major tobacco companies must stop using any public Instagram accounts to promote their e-cigarette brands in the UK.
The Advertising Standards Authority ban on four companies, including British American Tobacco's Vype brand, includes use of influencer marketing – which typically features celebrities or social media influencers using Vype in a context likely to appeal to young people - to advertise their e-cigarettes.
UK regulations prohibit online advertising of e-cigarettes but BAT, Ama Vape Lab, Attitude Vapes and Mylo Vapes all argued that their Instagram posts simply provided permitted factual information such as the name, content and price of their products. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) disagreed, ruling that the posts "clearly went beyond the provision of factual information" and were promotional in nature.
Ash Scotland today welcomed the news but said that e-cigarette firms need to be held to account for their "predatory commercial interests" which could harm the health of children. The Scottish Government said earlier this year that it was considering bringing in a complete ban on advertising for e-cigarettes and vaping products.
ASH Scotland chief executive Sheila Duffy said: “We welcome the ASA’s ruling which will make it more difficult for tobacco companies to use social media to market their health-harming products to young people in Scotland. We have seen countless examples from across the world of tobacco companies targeting young people through social media in an attempt to expand their customer base with significant risks of getting the next generation addicted to nicotine.
“Scotland is committed to regulating domestic e-cigarette advertising like billboards and leaflets but further action is needed if we are to protect children and young people from these predatory commercial interests. In addition to reducing the visibility of e-cigarette advertising here in Scotland, we’d like to see corporations held to account for the way commercial interests push their health-harming products to young people via social media and we call on social media platforms to be more proactive in moderating this content.”
The ruling followed complaints from Action on Smoking and Health, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Stop (Stopping Tobacco Organisations and Products) that the posts broke advertising rules by promoting unlicensed, nicotine-containing e-cigarettes and their components on Instagram.
The complaints focused on Instagram posts including seven early this year by BAT for its e-cigarette brand Vype, three of which featured captioned pictures of singer Lily Allen.
Other posts promoting Vype congratulated Rami Malek on his Bafta best actor award for Bohemian Rhapsody and featured a picture of model Olivia Jade Attwood smoking an e-cigarette.