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Landmark UK banning of e-cigarettes on Instagram

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British American Tobacco (BAT) and three other e-cigarette firms have been banned by the UK advertising watchdog from promoting their vaping products on public Instagram pages in a ruling described as “a huge step forward” by health campaigners, reports The Guardian. The landmark ruling against the FTSE 100 tobacco giant and maker of brands including Lucky Strike, Dunhill, Rothmans and Benson & Hedges, puts the spotlight on tactics used to market increasingly controversial vaping and e-cigarette products to young people.

The four vaping companies under scrutiny were:

  • British American Tobacco (BAT)
  • Ama Vape
  • Attitude Vapes 
  • Global Vaping Group

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) rules ban the advertising of unlicensed, nicotine-containing e-cigarettes, however companies are allowed to put factual information about their products on their own websites. The report says BAT, one of four companies to receive bans from the ASA for using Facebook-owned Instagram to promote vaping, had argued its Vype Instagram account was equivalent to a company-owned site.

The ASA rejected this claim, adding that BAT’s celebrity-driven ads “clearly went beyond the provision of factual information and was promotional in nature”. The ASA’s ruling comes as the issue of vaping among younger people, and the health concerns emerging attributed to e-cigarettes, loads increasing pressure on the makers and marketers. In the US there have been more than 2,300 incidences of vaping-related lung injury, including 47 deaths.

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.

“The ASA’s ruling is a huge step forward in preventing tobacco companies from using social media to advertise to young people in the UK and around the world,” said Mark Hurley, director of international communications at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, one of three campaigning groups to lodge a complaint with the ASA. “While the ASA ruling is great news, urgent policy change is needed from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to prevent BAT and other tobacco companies from using social media to advertise their harmful products to young people around the world.”

The Guardian report

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